In any market, having an excellent product is only part of what you do as a business. Many industrial businesses rely too heavily on their products and not enough on the customer experience, resulting in dissatisfied customers with no understanding of what went wrong and no clear path for how to make it right.
Jeff Ackel, CEO of Sigma Thermal, has shown how great B2B service can revolutionize a company, and he believes other businesses should be adopting a similar customer experience model. He was invited to speak with Tony Uphoff on the Thomas Industry Update Podcast about his pioneering efforts.
This biweekly podcast with Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas, features insightful conversations with industry leaders as they share their unique perspectives and best practices. Listeners receive tips and actionable advice they can use to help them with their own businesses and careers. Sigma Thermal is honored to have Jeff Ackel on the show.
The B2B Customer Experience
As Ackel explains, customer experience in the B2B space is different from B2C. With B2B, the buyers are professionals—they make purchases for a living. They want clear information about what will be best for their own businesses in terms of cost and quality. They’re not making emotional decisions like B2C customers often are, so they don’t need the same stories and types of personal connections you would strive to offer a B2C customer.
Further, in the B2B space, several individuals may represent one customer. You’re selling to all of them, and the experience should be uniform, transparent, and positive. They need to know you care about their business and that you’re offering them all the information they need to make an informed decision.
The Sigma Thermal Approach
Ackel recognized the importance of creating a tailored customer experience that meets the needs of B2B buyers. The tricky part is that it’s hard to gauge the value of your service. Uphoff calls customer experience “squishy to measure”, especially because it’s often considered on a sliding scale of one to 10. What’s a 10 for one person might qualify as an eight for another and a five for someone else.
Ackel’s mission at Sigma Thermal is “converting the squishy to the black and white” by recognizing that customer experience can be defined as positive or negative.
Part of this is using surveys to see if your own beliefs about your service is on par with the customer’s take on the experience, though it’s important to note that customers often only bother to fill out a survey when they’re upset. You don’t get an accurate picture of how many satisfied customers you have.
At Sigma Thermal, we conduct surveys twice during the sales process, and because a salesperson or project manager contacts the customers directly for a conversation, the customers don’t even realize they’re being surveyed. Ackel says, “We feel like we’re getting better results because we’re getting a more even view.”
The B2B customer experience is important to us, and Sigma Thermal is proud to be a pioneer in our approach and commitment to creating positive experiences for our customers. To hear more insights from Jeff Ackel, listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or Stitcher.
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March 17, 2020
Dear valued customers:
First and foremost, we want to thank you for your business. In an unprecedented situation like what we are facing today with COVID-19, we are forced to take a step back from normal business and recognize what is truly important. For Sigma Thermal that is the health, safety, and well-being of our employees, our customers, our vendors, and our other business partners. For that reason, we want to share the actions we are currently taking. We also want to share the potential impacts that this will have on our ongoing operations. Be assured that we are doing everything we possibly can to minimize the impact of this situation on our customers, so long as those actions don’t endanger the health or safety of our employees, customers, vendors, and other business partners.
Our status and the actions we are taking are broadly summarized below.
- We are strictly adhering to the Centers for Disease Control’s published recommendations for businesses. Those recommendations include guidelines on travel as well as sanitation and social interactions. I will not attempt to communicate those in this letter as they are lengthy and constantly being updated. We are following those updates daily and making adjustments to our policies as needed. You can find details on those recommendations at the following link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html
- We have minimized in-office staff – all office employees that can productively work from home have been asked to do so. As the number of cases continues to escalate, we will take additional action, such as further facility restrictions and staggered staffing schedules. As of today, we can confirm that our staff is safe, and no employee has reported a confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Sigma Manufacturing and all associated manufacturing processes are currently fully operational. Understandably, we have adopted additional distancing and cleanliness measures that could impact productivity. That also could change if and when we receive guidance from health officials that would limit employee’s ability to come to work. Note that this is specific to work being performed by Sigma Manufacturing in our Marietta location. We do use a number of partner fabrication facilities that may be more limited in their current operations than we are.
Below is a summary of the potential impact on your project, parts, or service needs that we see as of today:
- Supply Chain: We believe this to be one of the least understood and rapidly changing challenges to the global economy. We procure a wide variety of materials and components, and many of our vendors for those items have complex global supply chains. Many vendors can’t and/or won’t say if they are able to meet promised delivery dates. There are also likely to be delays in logistics as air freight, ocean shipments, rail, and truck shipments are all expected to experience delays. What we do know for certain is that there will be delivery impacts, and those impacts will vary greatly depending on the scope and current percentage completion of any given project or parts order. For those customers with active equipment projects, our project teams will be reaching out to you to begin an impact discussion based on your specific project.
- Customer Visits: We are greatly restricting customer and vendor visits to our facilities. We are instructing our teams to make all meetings virtual until health officials have advised us otherwise. We have also instructed our staff not to travel to visit any customer or vendors until health officials have advised us otherwise. We are making exceptions specifically for customer QA/QC representatives to make final release and FAT witness visits, and for our QA/QC personnel to do the same at our vendor facilities. All other QA/QC oversight can and will be done using virtual meetings and video calls, and/or with photographic verification. Note that any visitors to our facilities will need to request authorization from our staff and submit to some pre-screening questions and verifications.
- Field Service Needs: We are permitting our service technicians to travel to job sites for any critical service needs of our customers. Note that our Service Team reserves the right to request and review COVID-19 policies and procedures at any field site and decline service if they are not satisfied with those policies. Please also note that we are implementing a virtual service option that will allow the use of video chat and screen share services to support customers remotely when and where travel and direct oversight can be avoided.
If you have any questions for us, please reach out directly to your primary Sigma Thermal contact. We will continue to watch this situation closely and we will continue to communicate with you via your existing contacts. Thank you for your understanding and support during this difficult time. We value you as a customer and we appreciate the confidence you have placed in us by trusting us with your business.
Jeffrey S. Ackel
Chief Executive Officer