Throughout the years, Opticom has promoted the significance of conducting regular customer satisfaction surveys to many of its clients. Conducting these surveys and, more importantly, acting upon the results so that customer relations can be further strengthened, has helped many of our clients to strengthen their market position. UPM is one of Opticom’s clients who have taken this message to their heart and regularly track their customers’ opinions to reach its aim of staying at the top and being their clients’ preferred paper supplier and partner.
Making sure customers are satisfied seems a straightforward business strategy that most companies should be following. Still, some companies are better at developing an understanding of what really makes their customers satisfied and which expectations this places on them as a supplier. The rationale behind the focus on customer needs is highlighted by Ruud van den Berg, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing for UPM Paper Business Group: “Our enterprise needs to be focused on meeting our customers’ demands. We cannot start producing in large volumes and after that start to consider who we will sell it to and how. Instead, we adapt our production and our service offer to our customers’ needs.”
UPM’s customer focus also has had a clear impact on the company’s way of organising itself to make sure customer demands are met in the best way possible. “Two and a half years ago we have reorganised our company and are now structured along types of customers rather than on products. We have a one-face-to-the-customer strategy allowing our customers to buy all their products from the same sales contacts irrespective of which products they buy. The customer is seen as important because of all the products this customer buys whether this is about a bulk commodity such as newsprint or a specialty one-sided coated paper. In the past we had product specialists, but today we have customer specialists who are specialised in the needs of their customers regardless of the product.” Ruud van den Berg explains.
From a market communication perspective, doing customer satisfaction research may be a way to show that a company cares for its customers, but communicating about and then acting upon the results really proves to customers a company is serious about its motives behind doing such research. Ruud van den Berg further develops this point: “Just conducting all these customer surveys already shows how much we appreciate our customers’ views on how we perform and what service we provide. But then it is not just about finding out where we are today, it is much more important to see what kind of improvements our customers expect from us. Our management teams use these results to define clear improvement actions and we regularly follow-up to see if these have been implemented and noticed by the market. We have also learned to consider all feedback objectively. Though we in the past may have tried to find excuses, we are now looking at all customer comments and suggestions and try to find out what we can do to improve the situation.”
“The surveys recognise which areas we are strong in and they allow us to recognise where we should remain strong and not lose focus from these areas as they are apparently important to our clients as well. That is one of the advantages of your surveys: that they clearly highlight which areas are of real importance to the clients in addition to evaluating our performance. The survey also shows which of our weaknesses really matter to our customers and where they expect us to improve,” Ruud van den Berg describes some of the outputs from the survey. “What is more, the studies also clearly show our progress throughout the years and show how we have learned from the feedback our customers have provided us with. Since we started conducting these surveys, we can clearly notice how we have improved and strengthened our position. The comparison becomes very interesting when we look at the survey we conducted in 2007 right before the economic crisis hit and compare it with the results we obtained in the last survey. Despite a couple of really tough years we still have managed to improve our performance and strengthen our customer relations by listening to our customers.”