Boosting customer satisfaction with a new service model while envisioning new business opportunities for a B2B metals producer.

Our client, one of the worlds’ biggest metals mining, producer and distributor was feeling the effect of Asian competition with declining sales and lower-than-expected customer satisfaction indexes. Several obvious solutions included more aggressive pricing schemes (with diminishing returns consequences) or conducting a big, expensive and traditional customer satisfaction study, but this was a wicked problem formed by several sub-problems and various stakeholders. So they sought the help of a ‘design thinking’ approach with INSITUM. 


> Map the various stakeholders involved in the metal purchasing and processing process, both from inside the company as well as at their clients’ businesses.

> Understand the needs, ‘jobs-to-be-done’, perceptions and expectations of all these stakeholders (sellers and buyers) in order to develop a set of solution principles.

> Conduct an in-depth diagnosis of the customer experience problem, its effects and opportunity platforms for generating solution ideas.

> Develop a series of service and business model solutions focused on improving the B2B relationship, boost customer satisfaction, grow their client base and improve margins.

> Prioritize these solutions and develop a roadmap for implementing in the short, medium and long-term.


“This project was the basis of a cultural change inside our company and the industry. Now we are being perceived by our clients as a true business partner, and not just as a supplier, helping us command higher prices for our products since they really perceive the added value we bring to their business—which is much more important than a price discount or a timely product delivery.”


We started by conducting ethnographic research on the business operation—understanding the way the company and their salespeople currently operate; the internal processes and structure; the information they track and use; the formal and informal systems for customer satisfaction and the tacit knowledge that existed inside. This provided a first glance at the unorthodox practices affecting their customer relationships and provided a baseline for finding precursors in other industries with similar problems.

The second part focused on understanding clients, so we conducted 60 qualitative interviews and an online quantitative survey to gather feedback and ideas from the various customer stakeholders. Mapping the internal processes & capabilities and comparing those with customer needs & expectations helped us understand the reasons why customer satisfaction was so low. Our client was focusing on product quality, price and delivery, while customers required specialized manufacturing, production consulting and financial solutions. This mismatch was visualized in a complex opportunities blueprint which was used to generate specific solutions. 

In this workshop, a number of solutions were co-developed between our client and its customers. Solutions focused on: strategies, communications, channels, service models and new businesses with the potential to improve client interactions.

We then clustered solutions using Kano attributes model to categorize those which would differentiate and add the most value to the relationship.


The leadership team inside our client were surprised with the level of depth and insightfulness we achieved during the research phase, and the simple way we had to visualize opportunity areas. Bringing the customer perspective to the development of solutions was an eye-opener for the industry, which helped our client differentiate itself from foreign competitors and achieve a radical improvement in their client satisfaction measurements. Moreover, some business model solutions we developed are being turned into spinoffs in order to tap into the business opportunities we identified. Now are perceived as allied.