Organizations that consume chemicals require their suppliers to provide efficient and proactive customer service. A supplier who takes an inordinate amount of time to respond to a query or fails to respond to a specific request for information is likely to be dropped at the first opportunity.
Customer service in the chemical industry fulfills two essential functions. One, it is meant to answer any questions that the client may have. When will a particular shipment be delivered? Where is it now? What is the lead time for supplying “x” quantity of “y”.
The second function is a little more complex. It involves establishing a feedback loop that allows the supplier to respond to a customer’s requirements even though these may not be explicitly stated.
A supplier who can succeed in addressing these two areas effectively will achieve a greater degree of customer satisfaction.
Convenience and reliability
The role of customer service is to enhance convenience for the client. A supplier should not view itself merely as a provider of raw materials. It can add value to the product it is supplying by addressing some or all of these issues:
- What are the features of the chemical that is being supplied? Are there cheaper substitutes? Is the correct grade being used? The technical capabilities of the supplier and a deep knowledge of the product being sold can prove to be of immense benefit to the customer.
- A customer should know whom to contact for the various issues that could arise in connection with an order. If a customer has to wait endlessly on the phone or has to call several times for the same matter, it is a poor reflection of the supplier’s service capabilities.
Similarly, suppliers need to ensure that they provide a high degree of reliability. Every shipment should meet quality requirements. Replacement guarantees should be strictly adhered to.
Both convenience and reliability factors play a crucial role in customer service. A supplier who focuses adequately on increasing the convenience of clients helps to simplify their work. It is equally important to concentrate on reliability factors. By doing this, customers experience a reduced level of risk.
The shift to electronic communication
Chemical companies are eschewing traditional communication practices and moving towards digital modes of interaction. Forward-looking firms have already made the transition to digitally enabled practices. In a paper titled, The Chemicals Industry – Getting Ready for Next-Generation B2B, Accenture points out that the switchover gives chemical companies who make this transition a competitive edge over their traditional counterparts.
A survey of chemical companies by Accenture discovered that 94% expected to increase the level of investment in digitalization over the next three years. According to 58% of respondents, their motivation for incurring this additional expenditure was to stay ahead of the competition.
Electronic communications increases reach
Online tools make it possible for chemical suppliers to reach out not only to their customers, but also to the end consumer. It is possible to do this by developing specially tailored content for different segments of the market.
Subsequently, chemical companies can use analytics to get an idea about the effectiveness of their communication strategy. Using this technique, chemical firms can get closer to various types of consumers and understand the specific requirements of each.
Customer service can be a key differentiator
Chemical suppliers stand to make significant gains if they are able to improve their communication processes and make the shift to anticipating customer needs instead of reacting to them.
These changes may not give them the ability to charge a premium for the materials they supply. But they will definitely get a competitive advantage by improving their customer service practices.