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Smelter Service Corporation, an aluminum recycling company based in Tennessee, is in an industry that is experiencing dynamic market forces. For example, Ford Motor Company’s 2015 version of its best-selling F-150 pickup will feature a body that is primarily made of aluminum (not steel), reducing its weight by about 700 pounds and increasing its fuel economy. Aluminum recycling companies like Smelter Service Corporation will play an important role as aluminum suppliers and semi-fabricators rush to meet the demand for this resource. Smelter Service Corporation needed to better understand how it is perceived by its customers, whether there were opportunities to improve customer satisfaction, and to identify potential opportunities for differentiation in this niche market.
The Critical Questions
To what extent are customers satisfied with their experiences with Smelter Service Corporation? What factors drive customer satisfaction and loyalty? What are the ideal attributes of an aluminum recycling company? What attributes, if any, differentiate Smelter Service Corporation from its competitors?
We successfully contacted and interviewed 21 “deal-makers” in aluminum semi-fabricator companies – Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Directors who are influential in maintaining their companies’ relationship with firms like Smelter Service Corporation. Discussions delved into reasons why customers were satisfied or dissatisfied, what it could do to increase satisfaction, how these individuals select vendors, and how the business could effectively distinguish itself further in a niche market.
After synthesizing the information obtained from hours of interviews, we concluded Smelter’s customers were very satisfied, not only with the quality of the materials it recycles for partners but also with specific ways in which it conducts its business. Additionally, multiple opportunities to differentiate itself in the marketplace were identified.
The findings identified by the research are now guiding Smelter Service Corporation’s marketing, sales, and operational strategies.