To Identify NPD Opportunities Build Customer Trust to Unearth Their Pain Points

This content relates to : NEW PRODUCT & SERVICE DEVELOPMENT

Kirk Andreae

Clarke Power Services

Hello, I am Kirk Andreae, CEO of Clarke Power Services Inc. We’re going to be discussing our product innovation strategies that we use on our Vehicare business. Primarily we developed Vehicare to create an annuity in our business that was based on contractual maintenance for customers. It was on the Fleet Maintenance side that we decided to focus, which are large fleets of assets used to move product around the United States and eventually into other countries. We started off on our strategy trying to develop the annuity based on the preventive maintenance of the asset because preventive maintenance is the only part of the maintenance of any asset where not only can you control the outcomes as far as the asset breaking down or being out of service, which is critical to the customer. But you can also control the annuity because it is the staged events that happens every three months or one month or for two weeks depending on the maintenance interval that’s required for that asset. So it builds, our initial strategy was to build an annuity to be able to gain efficiency on the way that we utilize our technicians and also our parts procurement. And look backwards into the supply chain to build efficiencies so that we’re utilizing the assets that we have in the most economically feasible way.      

So when we look at our PM strategy, what that means is you get to know the asset, you see the asset and you build a relationship with the customer that you are seeking care of their asset and providing the service that is critical for them to move their product from point A to point B. Once you get in and do the PM. And it can be any asset; it can be a car, it can be a truck, it can be a trailer, be a forklift. Once you understand the maintenance intervals that are required, you can then start to look at other pieces on that asset that you can work on. For instance, if you’re working on the drive-train of a truck, which is where most of the maintenance happens, meaning the engine and transmission, and you outsource when that customer has an accident or has a tire failure. Over time, when you aggregated enough customers, you begin to see a pattern into where you can produce other products. So, it’s a horizontal integration into the customer. Because the customer has a requirement, in this case is for the asset to work, and then what you do is you start adding services to that customer. But you have to have a primary area of focus to get yourself in the door; build trust with that customer, establish your competency. And then you can begin to integrate into the other actions that that customer has in their business. So if you start off with trucks, you can eventually move into trailers. As you move into trailers, you create a new supply chain with the trailer manufacturers. Which means you have another customer in a different location. Then you can then use that supply chain that you’ve created to do the trailer work because you’ve now developed a competency in doing that work. 

So by creating that initial foray in keeping the customers asset up and running, and that was a strategic focus of ours. We went out and used our voice of the customer process to ask the customers what we need to be able to do to become more valuable to their business, not from a monetary standpoint, but from a trust standpoint. What did they need? What were their pain points? It came down to they are not professional maintenance providers and we are. And so we take a beverage company whose primary occupation is to move beverages from a warehouse to a convenience store. And then we use our expertise on the maintenance side to keep those assets running and give them the greatest efficiency. Once we build that trust, then they start asking for additional components that we can supply, additional services that we can supply. We actually help them with procurement. We help them with actually leasing assets now. So it was very customer led because once you’re involved in their day-to-day business, remember we built the annuity. We’re touching the assets, we’re communicating with the customer constantly. And you build that trust. You become the go-to supplier for anything that has to do with that asset. And so in multiple instances, we have now built a leasing business. We have added trailer maintenance. We started off with truck and vehicle maintenance. We’ve added forklift maintenance.      

The customer leads you to where you need to go and it’s very important that you have an open conversation with that customer of where the next step is in your development.     

Kirk Andreae 

CEO, Clarke Power Services