October 5, 2014 / agility, Cost Management, customer delivery, customer satisfaction metrics, LIT, Output, productivity, resource allocation, strategic planning, value-added services
In today’s competitive landscape, many industries are finding that enhanced customer service is becoming more important than ever. Companies like Amazon are raising the bar on what customers should expect from a service provider, whether that means Sunday deliveries or using the latest technology to improve the purchasing experience.
Not surprisingly, the so-called “Amazon effect” has found its way into the manufacturing world. Supply chain consultant Lisa Anderson says she has seen this first hand with all of her manufacturing and distribution clients. On-time deliveries, she says, are no longer enough. Today’s customers are looking for suppliers that can offer faster lead times and value-added services that will benefit their bottom line. Sound familiar?
In this blog post, Anderson suggests several ways manufacturers can provide Amazon-type service in their own operations. From same-day delivery to collaborative programs, she challenges manufacturers to think outside their service “comfort zone” and consider new ways they can add value to their customer relationships.
This trend has already started to take root among leading service centers. As stated in this white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology, more and more service centers are relying on value-added processing services like sawing, laser cutting, and parts fabrication for a more predictable stream of revenue. These additional services offerings are also helping these companies gain an edge over the competition.
What could this mean for your service center? What services could you add? The answer to those questions will vary based on the needs of your customers, your budget, and simply put, your willingness to change.
To help get your wheels turning, below are examples of three metal service centers that decided to enhance their current services in some way. While each company took a different approach, all three have found that value-added service has been beneficial to both their customers and their business.
- Klein Steel, a service center recently featured in MetalMiner, decided to pursue a national nuclear quality assurance standard called NQA-1. According to the MetalMiner article, this not only helped the company better serve its existing customers, but expanded its geographic footprint. In addition, because the NQA-1 standard goes beyond ISO standards, it has opened doors for the service center to serve the wind, oil, and gas industries as well. You can read the full article here.
- Recently named the 2014 Service Center of the Year by American Metals Market, Berlin Metals LLC literally turned its attention to its customers as a means for differentiation. The company conducts a formal customer satisfaction survey every year and then uses the results to set its improvement objectives and strategies. It also engages in a continuous feedback loop where all customer concerns and accolades are constantly communicated to management and employees. To enhance communication, the company has developed a multidimensional website that serves as an educational resource for its customers, as well as for its employees and suppliers. Berlin’s efforts have more than paid off — the service center’s 2013 survey showed that 98% of respondents would strongly recommend the company and 95% said the service center had earned their support. You can read more about the company and other AMM winners here.
- Churchill Steel Plate Ltd., a service center startup featured here in Modern Metals magazine, is focusing on the strengths it offers as a smaller firm. Jim Stevenson, the company’s president, believes that consolidation within the service center industry has compromised customer service, and his goal is to change that. “We are small, customer oriented, flexible, nimble and able to do things most customers don’t get from larger competitors: Fast delivery and quick response times,” he says in the MM article. “I want to provide a response to customer inquiries in hours, not days.” So far, the strategy has been working. Stevenson tells MM that he is “burning plate in two to three days after receiving an order” and that he is “picking up new customers from all over the country.”