Can 445 million Europeans be wrong?
Can 445 million Europeans be wrong?
“Greatly appreciated by our customers and an invaluable tool to strengthen customer relations and further improve SCA’s market position”.
Mikael Frölander has vast experience from the international forest industry, previously also holding positions at Grycksbo AB, Papyrus and Stora Enso.
Mikael has been a client to Opticom International Research for over 10 years, both at previous positions as well as at his present one at SCA. Here he shares his experiences with Opticom, focusing on the latest joint project which he was personally involved in: SCA Containerboard Customer Research 2018, which was a continuation of an earlier, similar study, which Opticom conducted back in 2014.
The main objective was to track progress and measure the effects of their hard work and initiatives taken as a response to the valuable feedback given in the previous project: Did their customers appreciate their efforts so far? What more could be done to improve and how? Ultimately, they wanted to gain the latest in-depth market insights on how SCA could contribute even more to their customers success and find new opportunities together.
Mikael says that the study of 2014 served as an excellent foundation for launching the next one, “We had a very good base and modified the different areas of investigation and specific questions to get them even more to the point, so that in the end, the outcome of the 2018 survey was even better.”
Right from the beginning, choosing Opticom to provide SCA Containerboard with the customer study, was based on Opticom’s profoundly good reputation in the forest industry, as Mikael points out, “Opticom is well-known within the industry for providing very good qualitative research and strategic advice.”
In addition to getting a compehensive report with the aggregated results and in-depth analysis, Mikael found it very interesting and valuable to read all the detailed transcripts of the individual interviews. When asked about whether Opticom adds value as a project partner, he emphasizes that Opticom has highly skilled project management and very talented consultants, all staff being very committed market researchers with vast forest industry knowledge and experience, “They grasp what it’s all about, and many of our SCA clients actually got back to us, saying that the interviews were very professionally conducted, actually much better than they had imagined!”
It’s crucial for a company within B2B market research to have a team of consultants who know and master the various topics, including understanding the specific industry terms. Most of the consultants have worked with other forest industry-related studies for several years and Mikael stresses that, in order to obtain relevant information, it’s important that the customers feel that they are understood and that the different topics are discussed in-depth with the use of open-ended questions. This is also what distinguishes Opticom’s qualitative approach from traditional customer surveys with short multiple choice-questions which might not provide enough relevant or useful information to act upon in the end.
According to Mikael, the main benefit of this specific project was to be able to get personalized feedback from customers, based on the detailed transcripts provided by Opticom. He actually made direct personal follow-up meetings with 30% of the survey respondents himself and in total, SCA had individual discussions with 90% of the customers participating in the study.
This is something that the customers appreciated greatly, with some saying that they had never got this kind of dedicated response on a customer study before. This has resulted in an even closer customer relationship and has also strengthened SCA’s market position overall, according to Mikael.
Concerning what the market insights provided by Opticom has meant to SCA as a supplier and what has been most valuable, Mikael concludes, “We have been able to confirm that we are on the right track even though there is still work to be done. We now have a much better understanding on how to proceed and our customers really trust us in that, which in itself is invaluable.”
In 2013, Stora Enso approached us at Opticom International Research with one particularly interesting project: their VOICE customer loyalty research programme; and when the Renewable Packaging Division decided to entrust us with interacting on a daily-basis with their customers it became the start of a long-term partnership. This project has been growing over the years and is now running over 80 countries worldwide.
John McKechie – Vice President, Customer & Sales Support at Stora Enso – gives us his views on these first years of cooperation.
Stora Enso decided to implement a customer experience project to obtain measurable and actionable feedback from their customers in order to better understand the areas of improvement; but also where they are doing well. As Opticom International Research worked with Stora Enso over many years conducting varied surveys and research projects on our behalf: it was a logical partnership for the VOICE program.
When asked about what the project means to Stora Enso and which part is the most valuable, John answers, “VOICE is increasingly important to the company. We need to have a consistent way to measure our customers’ experience, which also gives us impartial and detailed feedback. VOICE does not give us all the answers, but it does clearly indicate to us where we need to take improvement actions. The trend analysis also shows how we are viewed by our customers in comparison to our competition.”
More than just providing feedback and data, the programme can lead to making specific business decisions. John explains, “Many of the decisions we make might be relatively minor, specifically taken to address an issue raised by a customer e.g. changing the production order on a machine to reduce lead times. However, larger systemic issues are highlighted and this has led, for example, to significant reviews being made of our supply chain to address low scoring when it comes to delivery reliability, delivery consistency and delivery times.” And these decisions are leading to the improvement of Stora Enso’s processes and services.
John brings forward the advantages of working with a third party: “Opticom are experts in the research field and, although you are clearly communicated to our customers as being our partner in this process, you are still perceived as being independent. This allows us to get impartial, honest and detailed feedback from our customers which we would not be able to do if we conducted the interviews internally.”
Today communication is the cornerstone of any businesses and we – at Opticom – are eager to understand how our clients communicate about researches and their results. John shares that he himself communicates about the VOICE programme internally. He adds, “Within our Divisions there is regular communication of VOICE results and VOICE is on the agenda of Management Team meetings down through the organisation structure. VOICE is also a regular feature of the CEO’s monthly All Employee Call. Occasional articles will also appear in internal publications.”
John concludes his testimonial by highlighting that “the project ensures that we get regular, impartial feedback and meaningful detailed verbatim. As the interviews are conducted externally, there is a stronger belief in the accuracy of the scores and the honesty of the comments from our customers.”
Pietro Crovetto, VP Global Inhalation Strategy at Lupin Pharmaceuticals with vast experience from the international pharmaceutical industry at various prominent positions within commerce, marketing, strategy, and business development, for a variety of companies including Novartis, Chiesi, ALK Abelló and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Pietro has been a client to Opticom for over 10 years, both at previous positions and now, working for Lupin. He gives the background to his experiences with Opticom International Research, focusing on the latest Lupin project Opticom conducted, that he was personally involved in.
The main objective was to map the unmet needs of healthcare professionals and patients within asthma and COPD in terms of currently available innovative products’ attributes, in order to develop Lupin’s product so that it would satisfy those unmet needs better than competitor products.
Another aim was to enable Lupin to differentiate its product, including the services and monitoring systems offered, from existing alternatives and competitor products.
In the end, the main goal was to create a product that improves patient quality of life through ease-of-use, thus leading to improved compliance and lower treatment cost, something which would also lead to obvious advantages for healthcare professionals as well as payers.
The targeted markets in this project were the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The information was gathered in two modules, starting with desk research identifying relevant respondents with whom in-depth telephone interviews were then conducted.
Describing this project, Pietro explains that his idea was to monitor the emerging changes in therapeutic approaches and especially the interest in new combination products within the treatments of asthma and COPD. Basically to get a European overview of the present situation and to identify whether their designed new combination product was going to be successful or not and whether there were any differences across the European markets in this respect.
Pietro continues: I wanted to benchmark, to interview “real” clinicians, not opinion leaders, because there is a critical difference here. Opinion leaders are up to speed with the latest research and treatment options, as they often have done this research themselves, while clinicians might very well have heard about new stuff, after all they are specialists, but they are not necessarily as enthusiastic to adopt something new as the opinion leaders.
Choosing Opticom to supply Lupin with the market research was based on a combination of different factors; first of all good experiences in the past, resulting in a strong sense of reliability. According to Pietro, a key asset of Opticom is the fact that they offer both a very knowledgeable staff who understand the complex medical issues as well as their multilingual skills: “It helps a lot when we do not have to explain so much to a supplier and more time can be spent on the actual research, on the specifics of the projects!”
Sometimes the challenge with international market research, Pietro explains, is that you end up with the “Chinese whisper”, meaning I brief you, you brief somebody else and then that person briefs somebody else in turn, and then at the end of the day, you are not sure what went missing and where. So based on that, the two main points on why to choose Opticom are definitely their knowledge of the field and its multilingual staff based in one office. A third reason, according to Pietro, actually equally important: every time he has worked with Opticom, the adopted strategy has been to do 20-30% of the interviews, then pause for evaluation of the questionnaire, the response and answers so far: simply put: is it working? The Project Managers at Opticom are very flexible here and that is greatly appreciated, to optimize the quality of the output.
Concerning what the market insights provided by Opticom have meant to Lupin and what has been most valuable, Pietro points to the decision to invest in particular combinations of treatments, emphasizing that this is the most critical stage in their R&D and business development without going into specifics.
The results have also influenced their business decision-making, being added into their forecasting, because even if the research was qualitative, it was still very helpful to better understand what direction the market was taking. All in all, the insights have been used on several levels and according to Pietro, further investment decisions within asthma and COPD are definitely going to be based on the results from this research as well.
Asked about the return of investment, Pietro confesses: “To be honest, we didn’t count on ROI, but it was not at all expensive considering the huge amounts that have been spent on this treatment area, so the money we spent with Opticom was definitely worth it, more than worth it!”
According to Pietro, the main benefits of this specific project were that his team at Lupin got an additional level of insights on a practical level: there is a crucial difference between the people who work on the front line with patients and the opinion leaders, the high science: “We need to have a balance of both because we cannot ignore high science but at the end of the day we need to understand nurses on the floor, having issues reconstituting the product, for example. That is really a very valuable difference to us and something that Opticom understands. So I am very satisfied, more than satisfied and very happy with the co-operation with Opticom!”
Niko Kujala has been working within the product segment of breakers and switches at ABB Protection and Connection in Vaasa, Finland since 2011 and he has held different international positions within both sales and production. He gives the background to his first experience with Opticom International Research: We knew that we wanted to conduct customer satisfaction research on a global level in order to better understand our customers’ needs, basically asking them: What were the needs in different fields and what do we as a supplier need to do better?
In the process of selecting a market research agency, the ABB team had five competing potential suppliers providing quotes to look into. Niko continues: After evaluating the different options, we found that Opticom’s offer was by far the clearest, it was obvious that Opticom had made an effort to get to know our business and therefore understood our needs. In addition to that, the price level was also good.
Niko says that the quick initial response to any question that ABB had concerning the designed project as well as the smooth communication with the Opticom project team overall were further factors that tilted ABB to choose Opticom in the end.
The customer satisfaction survey covered more than 20 countries worldwide, with strong involvement from the local offices to make sure the most important customers per market were interviewed.
We got very valuable insights concerning client needs in in an ever more competitive market: what our clients appreciate about our products and services, how we can help them improve their own business, and also indications on where there is still need for improvement.
Niko explains that a lot of actions have been taken by them at ABB after the results in the final report were presented and statistical files and individual interview transcripts were delivered. Most decisions concern increasing and improving their direct communication with clients. He reveals that their business has grown since the research was completed and that the insights definitely have further supported this growth.
When asked what he would regard as the main benefits with this specific project, Niko points out that it was easy doing business with Opticom, that the communication was always smooth, the offer was prepared really well and that Opticom understood our needs in this kind of research right away. Therefore, wrapping up, he would definitely recommend that ABB would go with Opticom again, whenever the need for market insights arises.