Communication with the customer saves time and trouble
While at Stalatube’s headquarters computers are being shut down at the end of the day, people are just arriving at the Pennsylvania office. Stalatube Inc. was established 15 years ago in the Keystone State to handle the US and Canadian markets. Over the years, customers have come to notice that Stalatube not only imports steel tubes, but also a new kind of operating culture.
“Our way of taking care of customers and their orders is pretty exotic from the American point of view,” says Nordic Route Development Manager Mikko Lindroos from Dachser USA. He is a forwarding agent who functions as Stalatube’s logistics contact in the US markets and is thus its key link to the customer interface. Lindroos, who shares Stalatube’s Finnish value system, summarises his philosophy using just one word: Proactivity.
In terms of real life it means staying in close contact with the customer throughout the delivery process. Lindroos personally ensures that everything goes smoothly, functions as a link between two continents and cultures and is ready to take major steps in order to ensure that customers get their products on time.
“With thousands of kilometres between the market area and the plant, deliveries meet with all kinds of obstacles and delays along the way, from technical problems to the weather,” Lindroos points out.
Still, Stalatube’s deliveries make it to the customer relatively quickly in US terms at least – in less than three months from the delivery being placed. What is required is a very Finnish approach.
“Last year we shaved two weeks off a delivery going to California by ship when we picked it up already in New York and took it across country by truck. This allowed our customer’s project to stay on schedule,” Lindroos recounts.
Through its persistent work, Stalatube has been able to continuously improve its delivery times. Presently, orders often reach the customer even weeks earlier than our competitor’s would have.
What matters most, however, is openness.
“If we know that a delivery is going to be late, we let the customer know and try to make arrangements. Often customers understand when you tell them openly and in time,” he says. In the US, this kind of straightforwardness is not always a given.
“The American working culture is somewhat rigid from the Finnish perspective. Instructions are followed to the letter and improvisation is unheard of. If problems arise, companies don’t necessarily inform their customers. Instead they hope that no one will notice,” he explains.
Also, typically, companies often do not monitor the shipments themselves but leave that up to the transport companies. Lindroos feels that staying in touch with the customer is important in order to anticipate situations and to prioritise urgent deliveries. Unpleasant surprises are not part of Stalatube’s offering.
“All customers need to worry about is placing the order and receiving it, we take care of the rest,” Lindroos assures us.