The Kloeckner Advantage: Our Customized Care Puzzle

02.08.2022

Expectations of what quality customer care looks like have increased and become more complex throughout the modern digital revolution. Leaning on chatbot messaging that lacks human intuition isn’t always a satisfactory solution. Automated social media message responses created to help direct traffic tend to add more noise than assistance. It’s impossible to intuit and generate responses for every request on the customer side. Digital assistants don’t display empathy for a production problem or convey excitement for the birth of a loyal client’s first grandchild. Despite our constant internet use and easier access to customer service portals, many B2B companies fail to see the big opportunity. 

Putting the Puzzle Together

There’s a difference between betting big on digital innovation and doubling down on using technology to lighten your load. We believe that if you’re savvy and agile, you can leverage both in a way that leads your customer through a seamless experience.

According to Joey Johnson, Executive Vice President of Commercial and the man with the 10,000-foot view on the sales side, our customer service model is more of a puzzle. He’s been with Kloeckner for 28 years and says, “I’ve done a little bit of everything, so I’ve got experience in all facets of our business, and it’s all a puzzle. The picture never comes out right if you’re trying to force the pieces together. We want everything to fit just right; we want to be viewed as a true partner, not just a supplier. Ultimately, we want to develop solutions to help customers solve their problems.”

Digital Tools Enhance the Picture

When it comes to leads, Johnson has a checklist he pushes for sales success, “I’m always going to promote checking SalesForce first. It’s a great CRM we’ve invested in, and it’ll tell us if they’re a current customer. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.” He continued, “If they are, we’re going to get the lead to their sales rep. If they aren’t, we will communicate with each other to figure out who the most appropriate sales rep would be. Another important thing we do for businesses we don’t know anything about is a cursory check of the company’s credit worthiness to make sure they’re a vetted fit for us. I urge our team to look for red flags and use their best instincts and intuition.”

Johnson says, “In following up, the most critical thing we can do is just listen.” He joked, “Now, sometimes it’s hard to get salespeople to close their mouths, but there’s so much value in listening.”

Jonathan Toler, Director of Digital Innovation, echoed Johnson’s sentiments about listening to the customer and explained that his team works closely with the sales side to nurture the customer journey from the start to finish. It’s clear that Toler’s team prizes human connection in our customized care for each client, “We have salespeople who have worked with the same buyers for 10 to 15 years, and one of the things we’ve done is develop digital products, not to replace that relationship but enhance it.”

Consultative Intuition Drives Digitized Customized Care

We cover so many territories; the right hand must know what the left hand is doing. Toler proceeded to list the self-service accounts and various tech portals that keep all parties updated – vendors, mills, customers, our corporate teams – but it’s a seamless, mutually beneficial process. Toler puts it succinctly, “We’re a service center, but it all comes down to helping our customer forecast as well, and then, the better we help them plan, the more precise our inventory stays.”

We have a sound inventory strategy to hold our position over 2022 and beyond, and by providing our customers with tools like Kloeckner Direct, they’re able to effortlessly view our inventory and order 24/7. Part Manager is another robust yet intuitive space our transactional and contractual customers find helpful. By setting appropriate customers up with personalized Part Manager accounts, they’re able to search their own part numbers, view extensive order history options, download or email a bill of lading, export data they want to analyze in-house, and purchase from multiple branches at once.  

This streamlined digital experience also allows customers to quickly access things like Mill Quality Certifications. We know where every piece of metal we touch has been at every step, with the help of these tools and RFID. Toler also explained, from his seat, “We have a mixture of digital thinkers and salespeople, and the salespeople are always the first to address anything with the customer because they have that tight relationship.” In essence, our inside salespeople act as account managers, working out quality assurance promises and introducing value-added services where it makes sense.  

Automation Backed by Action

We’re proactive about problem solving and Toler says, “We’ve got enough checkpoints and resources to catch something before it’s a problem.” Johnson went a bit further when he talked about our approach, capturing a fundamental step in customer care resolution, “You must acknowledge the issue, display empathy, and make them confident that you’re going to handle it. Then, you follow up until it’s handled.”

Replenishment, transactional management, contract management – those are all monitored by technology, but dedicated humans continuously audit the data to make sure we stay on track. Our people are not only getting the highest quality product to our customers at the best price; they’re also rigorously evaluating specs and looking for opportunities to improve, and all of this is communicated to clients in real-time. Toler summed it up nicely, “At the end of the day, it’s about what’s most cost-effective for our customer.”

That’s our customer care puzzle, and all of those pieces fit into the much bigger picture of our sustainability initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint. To put it simply, we’re a team who knows how to communicate and keep our customers coming back. Stay tuned for a peek at Kloeckner’s approach to procurement and sales excellence.

Lauren Wiggins
Lauren manages internal and external communications at Kloeckner Metals, spearheading different programs that facilitate conversation throughout the entire organization, while enhancing company reputation across digital mediums. Lauren has 7+ years of experience in social media management, as well as copywriting for big brands from an ad agency position. She’s a graduate of the University of South Carolina, an AmeriCorps alumna, and a published storyteller.

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