LCN: Rüdiger, how long have you been with Procter & Gamble Professional and what’s your role?

Rüdiger Gottschalk: I joined P&G Professional UK in January 2001. I am leading the P&G Professional business in the UK heading up a team of consumer and customer marketing experts, and two sales teams, one focusing on groups in the UK away-from-home market, and the other one focusing on wholesalers.

LCN: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the laundry industry?

RG: I feel the biggest challenge is to deal with the ever more demanding needs of professional operators to help them enhance their reputation. How would you feel if you found a stain on a bath towel in your hotel room? Or what about a stain on a shirt b elonging to your grandfather shirt, who lives in a care home? These are critical moments for our professional customers and we are committed to help them win with their clients.

LCN: You had a stand at the recent Hotelympia exhibition in London. What was P&G Professional’s theme at the show, and was it a good exercise from your point of view?

RG: It was the first time that we had exhibited at the UK’s largest hospitality exhibition, and “Great reputations are built on details” was the theme of our stand at Hotelympia.

Building on this, we wanted to communicate to the industry that P&G Professional is a reliable and powerful partner for professional operators, offering trusted and well-known brands like Ariel, Fairy, and Flash as laundry, housekeeping and kitchen cleaning solutions, plus resale items like Pringles and Sunny Delight.

Our participation at Hotelympia was very successful and above our expectations. We had the opportunity to talk to a lot of potential customers and we received very positive feedback from key stakeholders in the industry.

LCN: Other than the hotel/hospitality business, in what laundry areas is P&G Professional active?

P&G Professional is also active in the healthcare sector. The power of brands is an important tool for operators to show their patients how important and valued they are. We offer our cleaning and laundry solutions to care and residential homes across the country.

LCN: The company has been looking more closely at how it markets its products and services. Are you viewing your customers’ needs differently?

RG: For P&G Professional the “Operator is Boss”. This means that we listen very carefully to what our operators and customers want, and then act accordingly. Bespoke but transparent and relevant solutions for products and services are fundamental to assist the operators to enhance their reputation.

LCN: Specifically, which products do you market to which customers?

RG: Due to the wide variety of products this is difficult to answer. We sell products such as Ariel and Lenor to care homes and residential home groups, Flash and Fairy to pub chains and local authorities and Febreze, Ariel and Lenor to hotels. And last but not least Pringles and Sunny Delight to top catering companies. We also offer autodosing laundry solutions in addition to manual systems.

LCN: One of P&G’s great marketing strengths must be its brands. How useful do you find them in the “away-from-home” markets you serve?

RG: One might argue that brands in “away-from-home” are even more important than in the “at-home” environment. Brands communicate trust. This is key for professional operators to delight their clients but also their employees. Based on our research, the use of trusted and well-known brands like Ariel, Flash, and Fairy has a very positive impact on customer and employee satisfaction.

LCN: What changes have you made to the organisation at P&G Professional?

RG: I have established a new organisation within P&G Professional to focus exclusively on winning with operator groups. This organisation allows us not only to develop relationships with those strategic customers, but it also gives us the opportunity to re-apply success models from our at-home business like Global Customer Business Development Teams for Wal-Mart, Tesco, and so on. The change also enables us to further increase focus on the wholesale business. In line with this I have adjusted the marketing, external communications and finance support.

LCN: Given the large number of laundry customers you serve, how do you meet their needs at a local level?

RG: We are working closely with national and local wholesalers and in addition have contracts with high quality service providers across the UK.

LCN: Should laundries be more aware of changing legislation? Is P&G Professional in a position to help in this respect?

RG: P&G Professional is indeed in a great position to help laundries to understand and to follow the changing legislation. We have broad and free access to all resources of P&G in the UK and globally, which is very helpful to remain on top of the changes.

LCN: Why are washing powders always described as “new and improved”? What is the next R&D goal to be achieved?

RG: They are called “new and improved” because they are new and improved! P&G spends a considerable amount on research and development in order to be able to delight our consumers and customers. P&G Professional has full access to those technology improvements. The latest example is the newly launched Professional Ariel Non Bio, which offers powerful cleaning and stain removal – with the added confidence that it has been dermatologically tested.

LCN: What’s the greatest change you would like to see at P&G Professional in 12 months time?

RG: We monitor consumer and customer satisfaction on a regular basis. To see significant positive change in those measures would be the greatest change I can imagine for P&G Professional.