As the president of a company that has survived and thrived through more than a century of change, Bill Stockwell knows the importance of understanding customer needs. In recent years, the company had been changing its business model in response to the trend towards off-shoring and foreign competition for large-volume commodity products. Stockwell focused instead on growth opportunities with customers who required lower production volume specialty products, rapid prototyping and high-end engineering support. While business was good through 2008, by 2009 the company was feeling the impact of the recession. “It was a good time to see where we stand with our customers,” says Stockwell. “We wanted to collect their feedback, better understand their needs, and gauge their perception of the value we deliver to them.”
Stockwell took advantage of DVIRC’s capabilities in developing a Voice of Customer (VOC) research engagement. The VOC is designed to help companies understand their market positioning, assess customer satisfaction and determine where additional value and business opportunities can be created. Stockwell began by providing DVIRC with a list of customers and specific customer contacts designated as having a growing, level or declining relationship with the company. Working together with Stockwell management and sales staff, DVIRC developed a questionnaire designed to solicit feedback on factors relating to quality of goods ordered, accessibility, courtesy, helpfulness, knowledge, responsiveness and speed of service. DVIRC collected data via telephone surveys, and presented Stockwell with a full written report of survey findings. The process was completed over a period of three months.
The results of the survey confirmed the company’s strengths, and highlighted issues where
improvements could be made. “We gained solid ideas for ways we could enhance our
customer service and revenue stream,” notes Stockwell. “We also realized that during an
economic downturn, it’s less expensive and more beneficial to retain customers than it
is to invest in the sales effort required to find new customers.” As a result of the survey,
Stockwell is now focusing on improvements that will solidify and re-strengthen its existing
Technology investments can enhance revenue. Stockwell customers placed a high
value on the company’s engineering support and capabilities in sampling and
prototyping components. In response, Stockwell made the decision to invest in an
additional waterjet cutting unit to strengthen fast-turn fabrication capabilities.
Already the company has seen an increase in fabrication business of 20% -25%.
Internal engineering support is a key asset. Customers value in-house design and
application engineering support. This response prompted Stockwell to hire an
additional internal application engineer.
Issues addressed, business reclaimed. For customers designated as declining, the
survey highlighted reasons for the reduced sales to those customers. In some cases,
the change was related to market conditions. In others, issues related to service and
sales follow-up were discovered and addressed enabling Stockwell to regain some
lost business – and pull some other customers closer.