Sandra Noel is account manager for Iggesund Paperboard in the sought-after French market. What is required to keep demanding customers in a good mood (apart from an impeccable product)?

“The most important thing in my job is to establish and maintain long-term relationships with our customers. Over the years we may not have grown hugely in terms of the number of customers but we grow alongside them. In my role as account manager in France I deal with between 60 and 70 customers.”

“When I had just started at Iggesund – it was ten years ago now (gosh, how fast time goes!) – the French beauty brand Clarins was a big customer. They used Incada Silk for their skincare products. But then one day the buyer rang me up and said their marketing department had decided they should use another paperboard that had a bluer hue. I lost 600 tonnes in the blink of an eye and there was nothing I could do about it. But you must never give up.”

“Then and there I began a long journey to try to get the customer back. I took photos of cartons made of this competitor paperboard in various duty free shops and sent them to my contacts at Clarins to show them how fast the shade was fading. I knew them well enough that I could do so without offending them – they know I only want the best for them. Finally I got a meeting and did a blind test. I put two cartons in front of the buyer and asked her to choose the one she thought was best. One was made of Incada, which by then we had improved, and one was made of the competitor’s paperboard that they had chosen to work with. She chose Incada! Then after a while, they decided to review their graphic profile and that was our chance. Now they were also ready to reconsider their packaging. We did some trials with Invercote and presto – five years after we first lost the customer – they were back.”