How constant searching has ‘Key’ed 3 straight SEA wins.

This year Key Electronics ( took home the highest overall customer rating for EMS companies with revenues less than $100 million. It was the third time in a row the EMS company won the honor. According to president Tom Hardy, the management team reviews Service Excellence Award data to evaluate service levels in the categories measured. The results are an integral part of the overall evaluation of customer satisfaction. These results have helped the company each year understand what Key needs to improve on to better serve its customers, he says.

Key wants to be a “learning organization,” which means always searching to improve on the measurements and tools that give the best insight into performance, says Hardy.

The company uses the SEA survey, along with an internal customer satisfaction survey, to measure overall customer service levels, explains Teri McDonald, vice president of business development. The customer satisfaction survey is distributed annually to all active customers. This process is formalized and managed through a quality system, which provides the metrics and goals set forth to ensure the company is achieving a high level of customer satisfaction, according to McDonald.

The organization considers customer retention, annual increasing trends in revenue with each account, and customer referrals as ways to gauge satisfaction with the company.

Hardy says management review meetings are held quarterly – a formalized process and part of its quality program. Customer satisfaction is one of the company’s business objectives. The objective is reviewed during the firm’s quarterly quality management review, and possibly more often, depending on need and circumstance. The sales team meets with customers regularly to determine upcoming business forecasts and to review the company’s overall performance.  

Company standards are established through the quality system metrics. They are determined based on management review and input. Being a learning organization means Key always searches for improvements in metrics and tools that will give proactive insight to performance, says Hardy. If service levels fall below the organization’s goals, gap analysis is a standard process to determine the extent of improvement necessary. Appropriate plans are then developed and executed with assigned responsibility and timetables to monitor results.  

Customer service is absolutely critical to the bottom line, McDonald believes. Key performs contract manufacturing, but its business is service. If the organization is not delivering customer service that exceeds customer expectations, revenue growth will ultimately slow, he continues. The organization is close enough to customers to know if it delivers the required level of customer service.

Key Electronics has been in the EMS business for 11 years. Its first customer is still a customer, and the company currently has several growing relationships that span 10 or more years. A typical customer is not transactional in nature, and therefore, the relationship length normally revolves more around product lifecycles, says McDonald. Currently, most business relationships extend more than five years.

Key’s sales strategy is to establish and maintain long relationships with companies that meet the size and growth characteristics for consistent profitability. The firm believes it more costeffective to retain customers than attract new ones. It’s evident from the emphasis that management places on the customer satisfaction survey results that retaining customers is an important aspect of its business model.

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