Each year, John Jacobson delivers Metal Center News
with interesting data on how mill customers view their suppliers.
There are, of course, numerous ways to look at the information. You can compare how closely loyalty tracks with overall customer satisfaction. You can dig into the comments to see if any single traits, positive or negative, are being repeated, telling us just what a mill does well and where it falls short. And, naturally, you can compare how your experience as a mill customer aligns with the entire field.
But one chart in this year’s list caught my eye. According to the overall customer satisfaction ratings, no mills delivered the highest overall customer satisfaction ranking to both service center and end-use customers. In fact, there was little consistency within the various lists.
That got me wondering whether this was commonplace, or merely a one-year blip in the data. So I dug into the back issues of MCN
to determine whether this year’s incongruity was a trend. And the answer is mostly, “yes.”
Going back to 2011, there was only one year, 2015, where there was any degree of consistency in the views of service centers and end users about their mill customers. And in most cases over the past seven years, the only categories that saw a mill take the top spot in both categories was in products with few North American suppliers.
In fact, only once in the past eight issues has the same company been ranked tops among sheet mill suppliers. In 2017, perennial leader North Star BlueScope topped both lists. And never has a bar/structural mill been ranked first by both groups of customers.
Why is that? Is it a conscious decision on the part of the mills to prioritize one group of customers over another? Does one mill seek out the distribution market, and take the steps necessary to keep them content, while another prizes its mill-direct customers over service centers?
On the other hand, is it possible that a mill’s given characteristics on price, quality, delivery performance, customer service and other traits are valued differently by the two groups of customers.
And it leads to another question, one that we can’t answer, but you might: How would this apply to you?
If your customers were surveyed about your performance, what would they say? Would some end users consistently rank you above par in terms of on-time delivery or quality or price? And would another group of customers have another assessment on your performance? And if various customers of yours would offer differing opinions, is that something you’d welcome or want to change?
And that is perhaps the most important question of all.