How we engage with our customers
We aim to develop long-term relationships with our customers by aligning our sustainability agendas. We do this through our cross-functional engagement model, spearheaded by our key account management (KAM) program. KAM is designed to increase points of contact across the customer’s organization, establishing lasting partnerships of value. We track our success in this program by the extent to which our products are attractive to our customers; these engagements have also enabled us to develop timely new products to meet customer needs.
Sharing sustainability strategies
Transparency is key to building joint strategic sustainability approaches. We invite our customers to regularly visit our plants and offices to carry out their own audits and process reviews. Our customers highly value a secure supply, which we meet with our Business Continuity strategy and Enterprise Risk Management approach. In FY2017, we held customer dialogue events.
In FY2017, we engaged with several of our customers and their sustainability teams to discuss our carbon black Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach. They validated our methodology and appreciated our data supporting their own product LCAs. When designing new products, we meet with partners to better understand their expectations and consider the sustainability attributes of our carbon black within their products.
Talking to our customers
Traditionally, communication between Birla Carbon and our customers has been restricted to challenges surrounding daily operations, technical services and quality assurance. We want to take this to a more strategic level, by engaging with our customers on their views of our industry, its future and our shared role in the years ahead. As a member of the Aditya Birla Group, we are uniquely positioned to leverage the Group’s strengths, particularly geographical reach and business diversity, to address the needs of our customers.
With this in mind, we organized two Customer Leadership Dialogue events in FY2017 at our facility in Patalganga, India. The leaders that participated from Birla Carbon included our CEO, CFO and the regional president, as well as representatives from several of our key corporate functions.
In the first event, we invited customers from the tire industry, with Specialty Black customers attending the other. The fora involved presentations on the Aditya Birla Group and Birla Carbon, reviewing our research and development of new products and technology, among other areas, and an hour-long discussion with our Group chairman, Dr Kumar Mangalam Birla.
The discussions with our customers were open and honest, enabling attendees to speak frankly about past challenges they had encountered as well as their satisfaction with Birla Carbon as a preferred supplier. Unique insights were shared into areas of specific interest for both ourselves and our customers, who left the events with a greater understanding about where we are and where we’re headed. The format is now being shared across Birla Carbon as an example of meaningful customer engagement.
Measuring our customer loyalty
Customer satisfaction is assessed at Birla Carbon by the well-established Net Promoter Score® (NPS®1), which asks our customers to rank Birla Carbon’s performance against our peers. NPS® is calculated based on how customers respond to a single question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend Birla Carbon to a business partner or a friend?”
Through the NPS® process, our Sales team contacts a minimum of five customers per month and the respondents are divided into three groups:
- Promoters (score of 9 or 10) – considered loyal and continued purchasers
- Passives (score of 7 or 8) – or customers who are satisfied yet vulnerable to competitive offerings
- Detractors (score of 0 to 6) – whose unhappiness can damage our reputation and impede growth.
A company’s NPS® is calculated by subtracting the percentage score of detractors from the percentage score of promoters. In FY2017, our NPS® was 60% on a scale of -100% to +100%. This score, which was uniform across our regions, shows how highly our customers rate us; it is also considered excellent for business-to-business companies such as ourselves.
Our focus is on driving improvements based on this customer feedback. For customers providing us with high scores, we find opportunities to improve or maintain our score. If customers give us a low rating, we respond through the appropriate department (Regional or Global Sales, Marketing or Regional Presidents).
In FY2017, we received 24 detractor comments, on the following issues:
- Lack of direct supply
- Lack of visits.
Turning feedback into action
Our customers want to see that we swiftly respond to their feedback through robust processes and procedures. If a product-related issue is brought to our attention, scientists from our technology centers assess the problem before issuing a detailed report. All customer dissatisfaction, whether regarding products, sales or the supply chain, is reviewed thoroughly before responding to the customer.
1 The NPS® model, developed by and registered to Fred Reicheld, Bain & Company and Satmetrix, measures customer loyalty by asking for direct feedback.