Business to Business

Helping a Major U.S. Metal Manufacturer
Become More Customer Centric

Even if a product is excellent and delivery prompt,
a partnership mindset is what customers desire in
a long-term business relationship.

Although our client for this assignment is one of the largest metal manufacturers in the United States and has been in business for more than 75 years, customer feedback was not nearly as positive as expected. Beyond this, the CEO, just knew, despite the company’s financial success, something wasn’t right. He decided to bring consultants in to help uncover the issues. The team was hired to measure customer engagement and recommend strategies to improve customer engagement and increase customer satisfaction.

The company had a number of competitive advantages. It produced very high quality products. Its systems of production and product distribution made it more efficient than its domestic competition. Lastly, it had a well-earned reputation of honesty and integrity. We interviewed 40 of their customers from all over the country, using in-depth qualitative discussions to learn what the customers thought about the corporation and its strengths and weaknesses, as well as soliciting advice on ways our client could better serve customer needs. Customers were happy to have this outlet to share their thoughts and feelings – to have someone to listen to them – and some commented they had been trying to communicate this information for years.

The biggest complaints were that the sales people didn’t understand their customers’ businesses – they failed to adapt their product offerings and delivery to meet customers’ needs and treat them as individuals. Comments included statements like:

“They don’t know my business.”

“They don’t know the challenges I’m facing.”

“They’re just order takers.”

“They never think how what they are doing can be customized or adapted to me.”

Even if a product is excellent and delivery prompt, a partnership mindset is what customers desire in a long-term business relationship. This company is known for its excellent products, speed of delivery, efficiency and loyalty to its employees and customers, but its customers did not have a strong connection to the company’s sales representatives. Customers were looking for our client to become more than a product supplier. They wanted a more consultative relationship, whereby our client understood their business and brought them new ideas and products that met their business needs and helped them succeed.

Following this frank input, we organized and held workshops at each mill to present the data to the staff and help them create action plans to become a better business partner to their clients. The next year, the annual customer survey scores improved significantly and continued to rise proving that the effort to engage customers pays off.

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