Story | 12/12/2022 08:00:00 | 5 min Read time

UPM Biofuels customer survey reveals excellent partnerships and a desire for long-term commitment

An interview-based customer satisfaction survey reveals that UPM Biofuels customers are highly satisfied with both the product and UPM operations including communications. The only major concerns are limited supply and lack of long-term contracts. The keys to great customer relationships are quality and genuine partnership.

An in-depth customer satisfaction survey executed with nSight in late 2021 uncovered customers’ unfiltered opinions on UPM Biofuels products, operations, and level of partnership in general.

The main result is that UPM Biofuels is perceived to be exceptionally customer-oriented, always aiming to satisfy the customer, quick to respond, and generally very helpful. Customer satisfaction extends to all teams.   

"We are naturally very delighted to hear the positive feedback from our customers. At the same time, we realize that we need to listen to our customers carefully and respond to their needs to keep them satisfied in the future as well."

Customer experiences also emphasize professionalism through and through, which gives UPM Biofuels a competitive edge.

“We deliver documentation promptly and keep in contact in a friendly but precise way: we don’t waste anyone’s time. As for reliability, we keep our promises in terms of operations, volumes, and schedules, but also the quality of our product. The transparency and sustainability of our product isn’t just a story, we live by it”, UPM Biofuels Commercial Manager Marko Snellman comments on the survey results.

UPM Biofuels is seen as a flexible partner instead of solely a supplier

Customers perceive their relationship with UPM Biofuels to be stronger than a conventional business relationship.

“UPM Biofuels is seen as not just a supplier, but a partner who shares common goals. Our mentality is to maximize and optimize the long-term benefits for our customers, and it shows”, Snellman says.

When choosing a supplier, reliability in terms of the product, value chain, and operations were considered important.

“We strive to respond to the market environment changes as fast and nimbly as possible, but always keep our word. To our customers, it shows for example in the yearly volume estimations in the contracts. We leave room for unexpected production disruptions and therefore always have the supplementary volume to use as necessary.”

Other attributes UPM Biofuels is appreciated for:

  • Flexibility in operations and commercially
  • Creativity and innovative mindset
  • Willingness to explore new business models

Changing regulations and short-term sales contracts cause discontent

In addition to positive feedback, some areas of development were brought up in the survey. The main cause of customer dissatisfaction is the desire for longer agreements to secure volumes.

“Lack of long-term contracts understandably hinders the development agendas of our customers. Rapidly changing regulations and legislation is a challenge for them as well as us, as the trade flow into different markets keep changing unpredictably”, Snellman regrets.

One solution to the unstable situation would be long-term legislation that creates a predictable market environment for the whole industry to operate in.

“Even though the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) covers the whole of Europe, it allows each country its own interpretations in practice. When some countries emphasize increasing biofuel usage more strongly than others, we keep creating diverse legislation and market environments.”

Limited availability is a challenge – UPM Biofuels is looking into solutions

When choosing a supplier, the most important element for the customers is the product itself. Due to the life cycle analysis, low carbon footprint, and a single feedstock crude tall oil, UPM Biofuels’ product is considered very sustainable.

According to the results, these benefits make the product easier to be communicated to the market – it receives wider customer approval. The only drawback  is that the volume doesn’t keep up with the increasing demand.

“Understandably, our customers want to be assured that the required volumes will be at hand in the future before committing to business development projects or changing the raw materials of their products”, Snellman says.

To answer the demand, UPM Biofuels is assessing opportunities for new investments to increase production capacity.

‘The fire’ was an appreciated example of open communication and excellent customer care practices

Another attribute that received appreciation is UPM Biofuels’ transparent and open communication. The approach was described as honest and pragmatic, even during crises.

A fire in the UPM Lappeenranta Biorefinery in 2021 led to losing several weeks of the yearly production volume and caused supply delays.

“Even though we couldn’t provide  all our customers with full contractual volumes, our honest communication during and after the incident is remembered and complimented by our customers. However, the consequences weren’t as bad as they could have been without the volume leeway in the contracts. In that way, our flexibility, creativity, and pre-emptive measures paid off”, Snellman notes.

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