Customers Want It ALL!
I recently presented information to a multi-billion dollar Tier 1 automotive company and to engineering managers at the SAE Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress. You can see the latter presentation on the Insights page. I cannot stress enough the need to understand the various customers in the delivery chain, including the end user customer. Too often we focus on the needs of the direct customer, such as a distributor. That’s important, but the product or service must also satisfy the needs of the end user. I’ve spent a good deal of my career in the trucking business, both as a Tier 1 supplier of transmissions and other components, and as a Vehicle OEM. We have dealers, distributors, aftermarket sales groups, remanufacturing operations and more that are all customers of the products. I spoke about the following ten (10) things to keep in mind for fleet customers:
- It must meet government regulations to be legal and to avoid costly recalls and liability issues.
- It must have low up front cost. It takes capital (i.e. cash) at some interest rate to purchase, install and train people. We may think interest rates are low, but our customers may be paying significantly in excess of 10% for capital.
- It must be reliable. In the trucking world, this means it does what you said it would do, which is different from the next item.
- It must be durable. It has to last a long time in the customer’s specific application. A garbage truck is different from a bus which is different from a long haul truck.
- The product must be available. For capital equipment, it does little good if it is in the shop for regular maintenance or repair or upgrade.
- The product must be fit for the job. Don’t give the customer a product that can go 100 miles when they need one that must go 500 miles.
- It has to be fit for the driver. Ergonomics and HMI (Human Machine Interface) must be carefully considered and implemented well.
- It has to be safe for the driver, for the other vehicles and for the environment.
- It has to be easy to use. Truck drivers are not trained astronauts or airplane pilots. Any product should be easy to use by the intended person.
- It should not need to be repaired. But, if it must, it should be easy and economical to service. Capital markets accept few disposable items, and limit those to filters and other small items.
Only when all 10 items are achieved can you really talk to a customer about the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).