When a customer has moved on to another source for the products you once provided, how do you bring them back? Identifying the reasons why a customer has changed suppliers is critical.
The C.A. Lawton Co. has been working hard to answer these questions and develop strategies to win these customers back. Recent returns of “former” customers to Lawton indicate that this initiative is working.
Why do customers return? A review of several recent “boomerang customer” cases sheds light on the factors that influenced them to come back to the company.
Quality is the number one factor that cannot be ignored. All others are secondary to it. As other articles in this blog have identified, a low-cost part from a low-quality supplier will often end up costing you more in the long run than a higher-cost part from a top-quality supplier. Lawton has demonstrated with its quality of over 95% that it can and does provide the high quality products that the industry demands.
As we all know, in the end it all comes down to this factor. Every supplier has lost business when your quality and delivery have been better than the competition but your cost is higher than them. Lawton is continually addressing the costs of its products with its LEAN initiatives and regular review of costing factors. Our LEAN production process is designed for simplicity and speed, while also maintaining the high level of quality our customers demand. A direct result of these efficiencies is cost savings.
In addition, with any new customer project, we begin by conducting a detailed dialog with the customer to optimize the features and characteristics of their product and to improve its manufacturability. That, in turn, helps keep the casting affordable.
Most customers recognize that the casting process is one of the longer lead times items in any project. The sampling process for new castings can also cause delivery timetables to stretch out. In order to properly define casting delivery dates, all of its specifications need to be sorted up front and reviewed to be sure a fair comparison is being made.
A claim of a 10-week lead time on a casting that wins an order can quickly become a problem when weeks are added to complete ancillary operations. Identifying these types of issues up front will ensure realistic expectations and help avoid unforeseen delays in the customer’s order fulfillment.
Engineered value-added services
Some customers are looking for “one stop shopping” for their component products. Where it makes sense, Lawton can provide services to complement the casting process, including:
- Painting, or
- Heat treatments.
With proper definition, this can greatly reduce the sourcing complexity of a component for a customer. However, we also want to be sure that we are not slowing the process or complicating the sourcing. Therefore, we need to discuss the expectations with the customer to determine what combination of services is the best option.
We have found that some customers have excellent capabilities already in place to serve them with some or all of these services. In these cases, we need to properly coordinate the casting supply in the manner that best serves the overall process.