Brenntag, the global market leader in chemical and ingredient distribution holds a central role in connecting customers and suppliers across the broadest spectrum of industry. Our business units provide a full-line portfolio and tailor-made solutions, marketing, supply-chain solutions, technical and formulation support, regulatory knowledge, and digital solutions. Brenntag operates a unique global network with more than 670 locations in 77 countries.
Not universally recognised, Brenntag are critical to the supply of a hugely diverse range of products that impact our way of life – the ingredients, colours, flavours, and chemicals that help keep clean water flowing, medicines readily available, vehicles moving, food on tables, and even the lights turned on.
As the Covid 19 pandemic turned into a full-blown crisis in early 2020, our focus became pin-point sharp; Not only did we need to maintain the supply of chemicals and ingredients that are critical to the national infrastructure, we also needed to make this supply easier than ever for all our customers who were facing complex challenges of their own.
More than half of our workforce is needed to be physically present on site, to manage, handle and transport vital products. We needed to ensure we didn’t lose any operational capacity to the virus and therefore our priority was to protect critical front-line colleagues quickly and effectively. To help control the spread, within 24hrs the rest of the organisation was disbursed to continue their work safely at home, making sure that person to person contact was kept to an absolute minimum.
In the moments following this step change in the way we work, we continued to work relentlessly in sourcing and allocating more of the critical products used to keep the nation safe and made sure core ingredients of the products in highest demand got into the right hands, meeting the demand for cleaning products, disinfectants, and medical supplies. Whilst there were overall business shortfalls in doing this, critical areas took priority.
Our business strategy revolves around delivering great experiences for customers. Whilst amid a crisis, dealing with the here and now, we also knew how important it was to stick to our values – maintaining our operations so customers had options, choice, and expertise when they needed it. We knew that the disruption and challenges of the pandemic would eventually ease, that our customers would be back, and we’d be there to welcome them with the amazing experiences they need to make their lives easier.
Our customer experience strategy lives in union with our business strategy, underpinned by our obsession to deliver amazing customer experiences. It helps us memorialise the principles we follow and the behaviours we adopt to generate the feelings we want customers to experience when they interact with us – safety, confidence, value, happiness, and love.
Staying connected to all our colleagues throughout this time was critical. We wanted to build on the already deep feeling of community and purpose and help people feel together, no matter if they were working virtually at home, or in person in our yards, on the road delivering products or as part of a much smaller team in our offices. We communicated like crazy with ‘Daily Smiles’ publications that illustrated the amazing work we were doing. This alone created an immense feeling of pride in our people.
Keeping colleagues informed helped us move as one, with a clear plan by our side that we could turn to guide us in the right direction when we encountered challenges – all designed to captivate the imagination and passion of our people. We’re not always visible but Brenntag was making a terrific impact on keeping people safe and saving lives.
As well as protecting our colleagues physically and mentally, we also had to play our part in society functioning as near normal as possible. Communication was imperative and embracing different tools was crucial. Our colleagues performed amazingly, and we made special recognition of the commitment those front-line colleagues showed, despite some negative business impacts.
To be the best for our customers, employees and suppliers; our processes, systems, and overall approach had to adapt quickly. We provided the vision and sense of purpose throughout communications and engagement, celebrating and demonstrating our passion for making lives easier with a positive and optimistic sense of energy that was easy for people to mimic. In this high stress situation, we showed our commitment to do the right things under difficult circumstances by persevering and finding ways to say ‘yes, absolutely’ however difficult.
Sticking to our core values allowed colleagues to display amazing levels of empathy and compassion to customers and their unique business and personal circumstances; some of which were extraordinarily difficult. Examples of these acts of kindness we won’t share yet are amongst the proudest we can feel of our colleague’s behaviours.
We worked faster and harder than ever before to source products, gain new approvals in record times and be reactive to the availability of products worldwide, adding value for our customers and suppliers along the way. Many of the products our customers use are traded globally, and we were successful in making sure that the UK & Ireland received our fair share.
We’ve never made hand sanitiser; we were however in a privileged position to have access to the ingredients required for cleaning products and hand sanitiser. As such, we wanted to remove as much demand for these products as possible and do our bit to make sure sufficient supply went to those most in need. Using damaged packaging and part filled containers, we set about manufacturing several thousand litres of our own sanitiser to distribute across our network and take the strain away from the supply chain. Beyond our own modest consumption, we donated almost all the product we created to NHS facilities, care homes, schools, and government departments. In addition, we partnered with Shell UK to package and donate 40,000 litres of sanitiser to the Scottish parliament in Holyrood.
Over the last number of years, using service as our differentiator, we’ve been able to grow our customer base, increase sales and add more product lines to our offering. Over this recent period, we’ve been able to help and support in ways never seen before, building on our experience as our customer’s favourite supplier by listening, learning, and improving their experiences.
Our employees feel engaged with a common bond – a comradery that means that even in a global organisation as big as we are, whilst working virtually and navigating the complexities, we know more faces, names and much more about our colleagues lives than we ever have before. Understanding these things helps us make lives easier. Customers have continued to recognise the terrific passion our people have for their success and happiness – sharing this recognition internally has been invaluable in maintaining the energy and motivation for us to keep going, no matter what.
At the peak of the pandemic our efforts were rewarded with the highest ever CX Scores, across the board NPS, CSAT and Effort were at levels we’d simply never seen – we’d even picked up a few awards along the way! We like to think that the benefits of our response to the crisis will continue in the years to come due to the lasting loyalty we’ve gained in the most critical time. Right now, we need this loyalty. Well documented global supply chain problems mean we are facing a new unprecedented situation.
Our formal thanks here to all our amazing colleagues for their fantastic ongoing commitment and dedication.