Having studied to be a translator-interpreter and with a passion for languages, Cathérina Elsemans (34) ended up in sales. In early 2020, she started at VITO as sales coordinator. Over the last two years, she has primarily worked on the new CRM system, which has been rolled out in phases since June 2022. At VITO, this system is much broader than just customer relationship management. ‘We manage all our contacts with it, on a commercial, marketing and R&D level. It fits within our 360-degree approach to share and provide as much relevant data as possible for our employees.’

CRM stands for customer relationship management. What does a CRM system do exactly?

‘It helps streamline our operations. This can be in various ways.  For example by avoiding duplicating work. When a staff member plans a visit to a customer, it is important to know that customer’s previous history with VITO. But if the staff member has to start figuring all that out him or herself - by collecting data or consulting colleagues - it will take a lot of time. With our system, they can simply query all that data in a centralised database.

In fact, we actually call it contact relationship management here at VITO. We use the system to manage not only our commercial customers but also marketing and R&D contacts. That fits within our 360-degree approach to share and provide as much relevant data as possible for our employees.’

The system has been rolled out in several phases since June 2022. How did the roll-out go?

‘After the summer of 2022, I spent a lot of time setting up workshops and training sessions to teach our staff how to work with the system. So that took up quite a bit of their time. But we have already received positive feedback from employees who are now noticeably saving time in their day-to-day activities thanks to the system. And it’s not just about time. The system also allows new colleagues to settle in more smoothly. Or if a colleague is temporarily absent, the other colleagues can take over appointments more quickly, thereby ensuring good follow-up with the customer.  It is a very open and transparent system. It’s kind of comparable to working in the cloud, but at the level of the whole organisation.’

You have other tasks besides coordinating the CRM system.

‘Now that the system has been implemented, I am the functional owner: the CRM point of contact for the organisation. But as sales coordinator, I am also involved in various other things, such as analysing and improving our commercial processes, managing our product portfolio and following up recommendations from internal audits. I’m also involved in other internal projects such as the development of the new VITO website, the new Channel V (the intranet), the VITO Digital Champions and doing ambassador work.’

You studied to be a translator-interpreter. So it doesn’t seem like an obvious choice to end up in sales.

‘I have always had a love of languages. During my Master’s, my specialisation was English and Chinese. But after graduating, I quickly found a job in the sales department of a logistics firm in Antwerp. After a brief interlude at an industrial company in Geel, I then joined VITO in early 2020. Although there isn’t really a link with my studies, I have no regrets about my choices.’