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Nynas Set Benchmark for Customer Service

First published in the February 2015 issue of Quarry Management as Setting the Benchmark

Proactivity, helpfulness and transportation efficiency will be brought into sharp new focus at Nynas in 2015 as the company sets out to establish the benchmark for customer service and care

Improved customer care, including enhanced forecasting of client requirements and better delivery management of products, is the reason for fundamental changes to order taking and product delivery at Nynas. The UK’s primary provider of bitumen intends to make its interaction with clients the benchmark for materials supply customer service. The establishment of a Customer Service Centre (CSC) plus transfer of its tanker fleet to a logistics specialist are intended to upgrade client relations to a sector-leading level.

‘It makes commercial sense to look after your customers and good customer care has always been a company objective,’ said Nynas’ business area director, UK & Continental, Jim Christie. ‘But times have changed, new technology is becoming available and we need to modernize our approach. This new way of operating refocuses our attention on our customers’ interests and keeps these foremost in our minds.’

Changes at Nynas to both order taking and delivery of bitumen reflect the fact that the two activities have traditionally been closely linked; with customers’ orders placed through the traffic office near the tanker fleet park at Eastham in Cheshire. Nynas were the last of the big bitumen companies to own and operate their own fleet, and when studies began a year ago to look at the advantages of outsourcing delivery it was natural also to analyse order taking to see how this could be improved.

The end result of this analysis has been creation of the CSC, under supervisor Clare Prebble. Customers phoning in their orders now speak to a dedicated team specifically trained to ensure the right products are despatched for delivery at exactly the right time. Team members are also very well aware of the correct manner in which to engage with clients. ‘Our customers are good at running their own businesses but we are here when they require support, to help them find the right solutions,’ said Clare Prebble. 

‘It’s very much the job of the CSC team to make sure customers get the best possible products to suit their requirements, exactly when they want them, with an absence of any uncertainty. Communication is vital to us: customers need to be kept informed of the delivery process and be able to feel absolutely confident that their requirements are being met,’ she said.

Although Clare and her team always want to be the bearers of good news, she believes that even when the news is bad, such as if a tanker suffers a flat tyre causing delay, if the customer is given the facts quickly enough, what through lack of information could have become a major problem is kept to being a small one.

‘The centre has been set up to improve the customer experience, which may not have been of the finest in the past,’ she said. ‘We recognize the importance of being the interface between the client and access to Nynas bitumen, and of using our position to build mutually beneficial relationships.’

Clare Prebble’s background is in setting up customer service centres and training personnel. She is joined at Eastham by Gemma Banks, Nathalie Rickards and Sarah Badley, who between them have experience of order taking, shipping logistics and local authority procurement. ‘We set up the department from scratch last autumn, with a good deal of support from Nynas colleagues in Dundee,’ she said.

The CSC in Eastham covers Nynas supply in England, Scotland and Wales, but the department’s activity is targeted well beyond mere order taking. For instance, it has an active role in making sure Nynas’s back-office administration is adequately provided with tonnage reports, delivery profiles plus sustainability matters – in short, helping collect data not just for the company, but for customers’ benefit too.

‘Data is part of the sales offer these days,’ said Nynas’ UK bitumen sales manager, Roger Dennison. ‘For us to compete, we have to be a lot more proactive. In the past we’ve taken orders, now we’re going to be actively seeking them – by spotting trends, informing customers, anticipating needs, knowing what products they use and which of their tanks can usefully be topped up. Our customer service is becoming much more holistic.’

Nynas say that what has occurred so far is just a start. What may happen over the next 18 months or so, if things go well, is the use of technology to provide ever-better feedback to customers to hopefully improve their position in doing business. As Mr Dennison explained, it is about Nynas adding value to their offer.

The studies into the delivery of bitumen, mentioned above, quickly made apparent the advantages of outsourcing in terms of both practicality and economics. As Jim Christie remarked: ‘We’re a bitumen company, not a logistics one. Handing over our fleet to a professional logistics operator – a relatively big one – makes very good sense in today’s climate. There are distinct operational efficiencies that can be made, to everyone’s advantage.’

The opportunity to take over Nynas’s fleet was put out to tender and won by Stockton-on-Tees-based haulage company Imperial Tankers. Imperial have acquired from Nynas a total of 42 tankers and around 70 people, 53 of them drivers; the personnel all transferring under TUPE arrangements. ‘The acquisition has added about 20% to our level of operational resources,’ said Imperial Tankers’ managing director, Ian Elliott.

‘We won not just on price, but on the completeness of our bid and the logistical efficiencies we could offer. Because of the size of our fleet and range of activities, we can accommodate short-term fluctuations in demand, which is important. Bitumen supply is very seasonal but we can manage that.’

According to Jim Christie, the arrangement is a very good one and the changes made – to ordering and delivery – complement one another. ‘In the end, we have to sell bitumen. Relating to our customers, showing that we care for them and their businesses while providing the best of service, including delivery, can only reinforce our position at the top of bitumen supply,’ he said.

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