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“On our first trial, we did not get the Bronze Medal, but we got EcoVadis Silver Medal 2019.
Now we will work, improve and aim for EcoVadis Gold.” – Opticom, CEO & Founding Partner, Carl Michael Bergman
Mikael’s speech focused on “The global consumer perspective on the environment and sustainable forestry”. Consumers around the globe get more environmentally conscious, their concerns are rapidly growing, and we are all aware of that. Most of us wants to do the right thing, but sustainability is a complex matter. Mikael presented results from a global survey investigating consumer perceptions around environmental impact on purchasing behavior, concern for climate change and raw material usage, knowledge about forest management and the Importance and relevance of certifications
“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.”