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Differentiation Through Innovation

How a creative concept can spur business.

Advanced Battery TechnologiesAt Advanced Battery Technologies, much like every other dealer in the industry, we’re often fighting back against a public that would like to commoditize our products. There are many out there who say, “A forklift is a forklift, a battery is a battery, a conveyor is a conveyor.” They’re simply concerned with getting the lowest price. That’s why as distributors we have to be constantly proving our value to the customer. The most effective way to do this is through thoroughly analyzing the needs of your customers and developing innovative solutions to their problems. It’s this idea that drove us to develop our GuaranteedPOWER Program.

When we first started out as a company, we were heavily involved with products like high-frequency charging and first-in-first-out battery changing systems. We did about six large, indepth fleet studies trying to pin down the most efficient way for our customers to maximize their forklift battery usage. As we did these studies, we kept running into the same roadblocks. There was a lack of management in our customers’ battery rooms that was costing them a great deal of money. The perception was that they just needed more batteries. Instead of looking at ways to improve efficiency, they would buy more batteries and continue to misuse them.

Finding Opportunity for Improvement
In this inefficiency, we saw an opportunity to help our customers and simultaneously make ourselves more valuable to them. We set out to show our customers that the battery wasn’t the key to their power system, the charger was. We would present them with a more expensive charger, but explain to them that it would allow to use one-third less battery.

Admittedly, the concept wasn’t warmly received at first. It’s not easy to shake an idea that has been out there for years. So we developed a program that would eliminate the risk for our customers. We called it our “GuaranteedPOWER” program. Basically, we don’t sell batteries or chargers to our customers. Instead, we sell power.

 We go in, analyze their fleet and determine how much power they need over a fixed period of time. Then, we essentially guarantee them battery power for that length of time. It really takes the risk out of the process for our customers. They no longer have to worry about what brand of battery or what charger best fits their application. We handle that for them. Once the system is hooked up, we monitor everything from our office. We can adjust charger settings, manage kilowatt consumption and determine if a battery needs watered all without leaving the building. Then, when a problem does pop up, we often know about it before the customer does. This enables us to send a technician over before they even know something is wrong. It’s not necessarily the most profitable way to sell batteries, but the relationships it allows us to build with our customers are well worth it.

Hitting Its Stride
The GuaranteedPOWER program wasn’t necessarily a home-run out of the gate. It definitely took a great deal of commitment to get the ball rolling. While it might have been difficult early, we never lost faith that the program would succeed. The reason for our confidence was the amount of research we put into developing the program. We studied every conceivable combination of forklift and battery. We researched all kinds of applications. In our minds, there was no doubt that the program would eventually take off. After a few years, it did.

 In 2009, it became even more evident how valuable this program was to our business. In the depths of this recession, we have found that GuaranteedPOWER sales, as a percentage of our total business, have increased significantly. I firmly believe that this is because the program offers a true cost savings to customers. In a time when many at the end-user level are looking to reduce headcount, we’re pitching a service that will help them do that.

In lean times, it’s all about increasing efficiencies for your customers. If a company or even a salesperson is willing to put in the work necessary to figure out how to do it, the possibilities are endless. www.innovationtools.com This site is overflowing with information that will help you think outside of the box and develop new ideas for the new year. Web Site of the Month Advanced Battery Technologies service technicians can spot problems before the customer realizes that something is wrong

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Ken Fearn Meet the Author
Ken Fearn is president of Advanced Battery Technologies located in Greensboro, NC, and on the Web at www.advancedbatterytech.com.

 

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