August 8, 2007
Simply stated, ask. According to a recent Purchasing Magazine survey, buyers say they expect their distributor suppliers to provide them with the lowest prices and highest service levels. Separately, distributors say buyers do press them to provide more information, especially on pricing justification and value-added services. This data also suggests that the buyer would like to see more technical support.
Almetals provides expert technical support, just ask.
Scott Warford, national territory manager for Almetals Company, an award-winning, top 100 metals service center, states that much of his time is spent working with customers on technical and market-driven issues such as material substitutions, forming issues, and long-term supply agreements. One would think a metals service center sales person would be there only to sell metal, but as Warford sees it, "I am here to help the customer get the maximum efficiency out of their metal and see that their material is running correctly." Gone are the days when a person just sells you metal; they also need to be able to work with their customer to help solve their issues. "We need to be in the trenches with you making the metal do what it's supposed to do," says Warford. "If I can't solve something, our metallurgist is a phone call away who will conference call us or be on the next plane to help." For example, Almetals assisted their customer who was stamping a part, utilizing the OEM's specifications, for a high-nickel grade stainless. The part was not running well on the presses and it was costing the company a lot of money. "We met with company representatives and suggested a lower-nickel grade with a slightly altered chemistry and at a cost savings," says Warford. "The new part ran smoothly on the presses and our customer received accolades for passing on the suggestion and cost-savings to their customer. They asked for help and in the end, we helped each other."
Tim Doherty, vice president of sales at Almetals, says that most of the time the customer sees us as only wanting to sell them something. "We also provide follow-up and problem solving, which we feel keeps our customer satisfaction high," says Doherty. "Also, our quality is at 99.8% and our on-time delivery performance at 99.7%. Those numbers speak volumes to anyone involved in this industry." It's one thing to say we're going to do what we say we're going to do, it's another thing to actually do it. How do we do it? "Communication is the key," says Doherty. "Our customers need to know that I or our sales and customer service representatives are going to call you back and help you, when you need it the most. Our commitment to our customers' total quality experience doesn't end with a purchase order. We are available 24/7." If you didn't know this before, you do now. Just ask.