14 January 2013

Key Account Management- from customer transactions to partnerships

Written by Alejandra Norén
Published in Oil products

Instead of seeing their customers as someone they do separate business transactions with, companies are starting to consider their customers as partners. This is the way we see our customers also at Neste Oil. As our vision states, we want to be a partner instead of being a supplier, and we want to offer our customers larger solutions instead of just individual products.

The good news is that this trend is getting stronger and stronger. The general switch to the Key Account Management (KAM) model in customer relations has been progressive and its adoption has varied depending on type of business and industry. Although people in different industries may use the same terminology, they often mean different things when talking about KAM.

In order to really get to know our customers' needs and provide them the most suitable solutions for their purposes, we have also recently introduced KAM model as our new customer approach. In the most developed status of this model, both parties doing business together develop and share strategies and proper solutions to add real value.

KAM is about building long-lasting and close partnership relationships that add value to both parties; the buyer as well as the seller. Developing an in-depth relationship requires time with customers. Getting to know customers cannot be done only on the phone, there needs to be face-to-face meetings, in different locations if possible, sharing projects, agendas and leading the liaison with all relevant customers’ representatives. The model is truly based on real common added value as the performance evaluation is based on the success of both parties. The amount of phone calls, visits and reports are not the most important indicators, as the overall performance on actions remains the main driver for results.

I’ve been reading a lot about this topic, but the best way to learn though, was to implement the KAM model in practice. The implementation of KAM at Neste Oil has truly been a rewarding experience. Teams have examined our customer organization to the maximum extent enabling the establishment of multiple cross-functional contacts at different levels relevant to business synergies. The model develops as it is implemented and is adjusted more and more according to markets and customer needs.

When we talk about KAM, a good element of success is to focus on a limited amount of actions that have been agreed on and defined as meaningful together with customers. This has helped also us to establish focus and discipline.

Performance is considered as the main goal per se. It's vital to deliver the promises (volumes, prices, margins), build a trustworthy and honest relationship and establish good communication, and agree on common goals.

We can share many good examples about what we have already achieved. In one of our key customer accounts, we have managed to broaden customer contacts and establish a routine of discussions such as Top-to-Top meetings, supply chain and customer requirements meetings, special technical project meetings. This focus has enabled growth in volumes in regions outside Europe and special resource allocation to different priorities, due to better understanding of the real needs.

New Year 2013 brings more challenges related to our global reach. Developing further a “solution concept” through KAM model is a key priority next year and a true element for success!

Alejandra Norén
Sales director, Base Oils