Close Customer Services Vital for Progress in the "New Normal"By Peter Appleby | Tue, 09/08/2020 - 12:03
Q: How has the arrival of the pandemic impacted Ramboll’s operations?
A: The pandemic has very rapidly changed the landscape. The inability to travel is one factor that is having a major impact on Ramboll’s business. So much of environmental and industrial safety consulting involves visiting sites to review and document processes. Those restrictions are certainly impairing our ability to deliver work as we would like. Clients are very understanding about this, but there is no denying that restrictions have had an effect.
Similarly, the access to some public resources and information has slowed, as has the ability for regulators to review our permitting documents. Some of our service providers also have been hit by this pandemic and their inability to travel hinders our ability to deliver work. All in all, we have maintained a high level of service but there are many new protocols that have been introduced due to COVID-19 and that have forced a change in how we do business.
Q: How can technology help ease the dilemma stemming from travel restrictions?
A: We were looking at technological solutions to issues like this prior to COVID-19. This was particularly true for high-risk travel areas, especially in areas of conflict. Among these technologies are Microsoft HoloLens and virtual auditing technologies. We have also used handheld devices that allow auditors to go through standard protocols and capture image and video for supporting documentation. When Wi-Fi is not available, we use 360° scanners.
Outside of technological tools, we have also employed software solutions. These include document reviews using secure file system for remote sharing of information. We have also transitioned from in-person to virtual training. Ramboll has also developed an app for construction projects that directs clients on how to mitigate the spread of the virus on worksites. These were already in use or under development but the pandemic has heightened the focus on them. Since we are not traveling, the project costs have gone down. We are able to pass these savings on to our clients and remain competitive without having to travel.
Q: How do you predict the relationship between consultancy and client will change due to COVID-19?
A: The key element for Ramboll is to maintain close contact with our clients. This has required that we be in even closer contact with them than in the pre-pandemic era. We must understand their needs and requirements because this rapidly changing landscape can be extremely disruptive. The technologies we have mentioned are helping us achieve this goal.
Ramboll has developed its own COVID-19 task force to focus on the ways we can best service clients, because within our structure we have epidemiologists and biologists who help evaluate clients’ protocols on viral risk, or how clients can best reduce the potential dispersion of a virus within a workplace. However, the way we do business will surely change. In Latin America, there is a preference for face-to-face meetings to close deals. Fixed addresses and offices were important so that clients could arrive at your door. This allowed people to feel secure. But this is changing significantly, and we must remain close to our clients regardless of the physical distance, whether that be through video calls or other means.
Q: What does Ramboll expect to be COVID-19’s long-term consequences on the environmental and industrial safety compliance market?
A: In times of uncertainty, people look for security. Companies are looking for service providers that are certain to offer services in the mid to long term. Clients in oil and gas will tend to move toward the more consolidated companies. Another change is that clients will be looking for certification under specific management systems, like environmental, health and safety, and energy efficiency standards. Perhaps clients themselves will move toward achieving certification. But larger players will expect their supply chain to match their own standards.
Oil and gas companies will move toward further integrated service offerings where they can receive several types of services from one company, not just one. This will be for enhanced cost efficiencies but also because a trusted relationship with subcontractors will be important.
Q: In which areas has Ramboll seen its activity grow over the last 12 months?
A: The oil and gas upstream sector has been impacted the most. The frequency of projects this year has been unlike previous years due to commodity price declines and demand destruction for refined product. Oil and gas midstream activity has grown and we have several ongoing projects offering diverse services including assessments, auditing support and more. We expect to see requests from the oil and gas sector for services tied to sustainability issues and service requirements that typically would not have come our way. Life-cycle assessment or circular economy strategies for decommissioning offshore infrastructure are a couple of examples. The new normal will see companies use these approaches because it provides an economic benefit to the company, it is expected by investors, and it ensures that their license to operate is maintained.
Other areas, like land use approvals and environmental impact assessments, have continued as usual. These requirements will remain relevant whenever pipelines or storage facilities are built. The authorities have gained experience over the last few years; their practices are more efficient and mature. This bolsters the importance of delivering our types of services at a high professional level from the beginning of any project.
As a company, Ramboll was in a very good place prior to COVID-19 and this has provided a strong buffer as we have adapted rapidly to address the changing landscape. We can assist companies undergoing financial restructuring, including Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the oil price downturn and overall economic crisis. This includes valuing environmental liabilities and asset retirement obligations of companies in those situations. This service is likely to grow in relevance as time goes on.
Ramboll is a Danish engineering, architecture and consultancy firm employing over 16,000 people worldwide. In Mexico, the company provides a select service portfolio based around environmental and industrial safety and compliance