Manufacturers discuss how they get user feedback, why it matters and how it determines what trucks, accessories and equipment to build.
“How are we doing?”
Seems like a simple enough question, but it’s one that, often, doesn’t get asked enough. In fact, asking this question can be the key that unlocks the door to crucial information necessary when developing a new piece of equipment, or improving and upgrading an existing product.
This is definitely the case for manufacturers of trucks and accessories in the tree care business.
At Altec, this is precisely what Andy Price focuses on. Price, market manager of tree care equipment and bodies, said that listening to customers and soliciting feedback on equipment is of utmost importance in the development and research processes.
When talking to tree care professionals about Altec’s equipment, Price says he focuses on “what improvements, both in productivity and/or safety improvements we can make to our products to make their job easier on a day-to-day basis.”
End-user feedback on products or equipment in the market also is crucial in determining the direction to go with products yet to be developed.
“Looking at products that might not even be in existence yet, for things they could use three to five years in the future … when we start development of a new product, we will spend six to 12 months interviewing customers,” Price says. “We determine exactly what they’re looking for, what features should be there, what features should not be there, so that when we do come to market the product is as best as possible. We have listened to the customer, and our goal is for the customer to say: ‘That’s exactly what I had in mind.’”
At Terex, this process is called “Voice of the Customer.” Joe Caywood, director of marketing, says that, along with talking with customers about the company’s aerial devices — the core product Terex manufactures, customers are asked about up-fits, chassis issues, life-cycle and maintenance cost of equipment.
“Essentially we put together a cross-functional team that involves product management, design engineering and also the manufacturing engineering team that is responsible for the [assembly] line that produces new products,” Caywood said. “We have the opportunity to meet with very large customers and some mid-size customers — from the East Coast, Midwest, South and Northeast — and we sit down with them and have a standard approach where we ask questions and essentially have a dialogue, asking ‘What are your challenges?’ … We then collectively take [the responses] and set a top-10 list of criteria and put a priority on these.”
For perspective’s sake, according to Lee Resources International (a consulting, training, recruiting and publishing firm), resolve a complaint in the customers’ favor and they will do business with you again 70 percent of the time. This statistic not only proves the adage that customer is king, but that it’s essential to find out what complaints customers might have. Being proactive about acquiring feedback about products or equipment will be in a company’s best interest.
Southco Industries also practices extensive customer interviews and solicits as much feedback as possible, according to Vice President Richard Goforth.
“At Southco Industries, we don’t know anything about cutting trees,” Goforth said. “But, all the features we put into our products come from the end user, the customer. They’ll say, ‘Why don’t you make it this size, this tall, or this big?’ We try to incorporate those ideas into our products.”
Arguably the most important piece of equipment you will purchase is your work truck.