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St. Norbert’s Strategic Research Institute helped Green Bay Packaging, one of the area’s largest employers, conduct customer surveys.

Unpacking the Possibilities

A half-century connection with St. Norbert College led a major Green Bay employer to tap the college for assistance with its customer surveys three times over the last several years, and the results have been impressive. Each time response rates have risen, and the data collected has proven more valuable.

Green Bay Packaging, the venerable third-generation company led by the Kress family, first contacted SNC’s Strategic Research Institute (SRI) in 2012 for a higher-level approach to conducting voice-of-the-customer surveys for its Wausau division. The division’s sales force had been conducting these surveys internally, but struggled with low response rates, poorly designed questions and questionable value from the data it collected. 

SRI executive director Dave Wegge and his team created a convenient, online survey process that began with a pre-notification letter from the general manager of the Wausau division to its customers. The letter alerted customer contacts to the upcoming survey request, greasing the skids for improved response rates. An email followed from Wegge with a link to the survey attached. The third-party involvement and anonymous feedback model generated more honest responses compared with surveys previously conducted.

Since then, SRI has conducted the Green Bay Packaging survey every other year. Response rates have climbed steadily from 47 percent the first year to 65 percent in 2016. More importantly, the data and open-ended responses have enabled the company to take strategic actions geared toward strengthening areas of weakness and clarifying customer expectations. On-time delivery emerged as a highly critical piece of the customer-satisfaction puzzle. 

“SRI helped us sort through a lot of data,” says John Laabs, sales director for the Wausau division. “We were able to see what areas needed our focus based on whether it was important to the customer. As a result, we were able to develop specific goals and objectives. The results helped us with scheduling and were instrumental in getting the management team to buy into the value of establishing standard lead times to help customers understand what they can expect in terms of delivery throughout the year.”

Green Bay Packaging’s particular survey process takes about four months to complete. The customer controls the content of the questions, while the SRI team controls the methodology.

“We are able to include some statistical analysis that organizations often don’t have the capability to include,” says Wegge. “It gives us some additional insight into what is driving overall customer satisfaction. It is hard to make a dramatic impact one year to the next, but if you track results over time – we’ve done this survey three times now – you can see some improvements.”

Green Bay Packaging’s ties to St. Norbert stretch back to the late Fred Wakeman, an SNC alum and one of the company’s most valued former employees. Wakeman, who concluded his 42-year career with the company as its executive vice president and chief financial officer, was an active donor to the college and received the National Alumni Board of St. Norbert College Alma Mater Award in 1991.

Wakeman’s most recent role in connecting the college with his former employer came in the years prior to his death in 2012, when he introduced his daughter, Julie Spear, to then-president Thomas Kunkel. Spear is director of compliance for Green Bay Packaging’s Wausau division.

“Tom was the one who really expressed the wonderful things St. Norbert College is able to do,” Spear says. “When this opportunity for a customer survey came up, the first place I thought of was St. Norbert.”

Laabs also notes the company employs a lot of St. Norbert graduates, another reason the company reached out to the college. 

Jan. 30, 2018