For more than 30 years, through regularly staged Invitation to Compare (ITC) events held throughout North America, Hyster Company has educated customers and made it easy for them to compare Hyster® forklifts to those of competitors’.
Based on its years of experience and acknowledged status as an industry leader, it should come as no surprise that Hyster Company is confident enough to push the boundaries of convention by allowing prospective users to attend these events and observe, first hand, the obvious and subtle differences in each fork lift truck model.
“The program’s genesis makes up Hyster Company’s legacy – teaching employees that full disclosure and objectivity are not only the keys to selling but also to innovation, user loyalty, understanding market trends and providing solutions to companies,” says Paul Laroia, current vice president of aftermarket for NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc. and previous president of Hyster Company. “These are the fundamentals for a strong, healthy and long-term relationship with a satisfied customer base.”
Basic fundamentals haven’t changed since Hyster Company came into existence more than 80 years ago. Throughout its lengthy history, Hyster has maintained that all design should be functional and every design element should play a role.
Comparison selling is not a novel idea in the marketing world (consider soft drink manufacturers, laundry detergent companies, etc.). “Since the 1950s, we’ve been testing our lift trucks against competitive offerings at our Portland, Ore.-based technical center,” claims Laroia. “Along with gathering empirical test data, we would objectively collect feedback from customers and use these combined observations to produce a better lift truck to stay ahead of the market.”
In the late 1970s, Hyster decided to publicly share the test results with customers in head-to-head comparison. The ITC event was born. “Hyster decided to expose the events to the public because we had a high level of confidence that our lift trucks represented the best value in the market,” Laroia adds. “We believed in customer empowerment and wanted to let the people decide for themselves which truck would best meet their needs. Decades later, we still believe this.”
EVENT BACKGROUND AND PHILOSOPHY
ITC events provide customers the opportunity to review product features of leading lift truck manufacturers. Attendees are able to compare the trucks in a number of categories including travel speed, lift and lower speeds, serviceability, energy consumption, ergonomics and overall value. Trained onsite personnel perform live demonstrations of each product while members of the audience evaluate each truck based on several criteria including productivity, durability and operator comfort.
As they continue dealing with today’s difficult economic times, forklift customers nationwide want to make the optimal purchase for their money. The Hyster ITC event provides them a forum to best evaluate which forklift best suits their needs so that they can get the best return on their investment.
A typical ITC event is a two-day affair comprised of introduction, education, training and comparison.
SOLUTIONS PROVIDED – HYSTER OR NOT
Buying a new lift truck is not – and should not be – a 10-minute decision. Hyster Company believes that it is very important to give the prospective customer enough time to make their purchase decision. “The sales team’s role is to guide and aide the process of the customers’ due diligence by allowing time for a thorough analysis and acting as a solutions provider,” says Brian Harris, corporate director of sales for Papé Materials Handling, a Hyster dealer organization that recently hosted nine ITC events at their dealer branches. “By giving customers an understanding of the critical components in the purchasing decision, then giving them the data and the tools they need, the company helps them choose an optimal solution that best meets their requirements. The ITC events that we participate in help end users come to an informed decision.”
There are no biases in Hyster Company’s ITC events; everything is kept on the same level. For example, all of the trucks presented are in new condition and have the same specifications. Having performed the tests in a controlled environment, without any biases, and generating the results in an open manner, Hyster Company deflects criticism. Further, by performing the analysis, sharing the results and allowing the customer to draw his/her own conclusion, Hyster Company enables the customer’s decision to speak for itself. Hyster is confident that published results reveal the company to be fair and balanced.
“No matter what decision the customer ultimately makes, we feel Hyster will always be well positioned and seen in a positive light,” says Laroia. “Whatever the outcome, Hyster Company has always believed that whenever our dealers interface with customers – moments of truth – good things happen. Even if the customer doesn’t end up buying our lift truck this time, we have established a relationship with them and taught them about how to properly evaluate a lift truck. Hyster Company is a total solutions provider and, as a long-established industry leader, we believe it’s our social obligation to make lift truck users more knowledgeable and informed.”
MEASURING THE RESULTS
The impact of ITC events is measured, internally, in several ways. These events enable Hyster to provide memorable training to their sales people. The hands-on training helps escalate the confidence level of the sales force, which enables its members to sell more effectively and efficiently.
Further, the events allow for the creation and maintenance of long-term relationships with customers. With Hyster dealers acting as solutions providers, showing objectivity, exemplifying full disclosure and not putting pressure on customers to buy a Hyster product, customers realize that the Hyster sales team only wants them to purchase the lift truck that best suits their needs. This, in turn, generates mutual respect and trust. The popularity and longevity of the ITC events underscores how Hyster fosters empowerment among its customers, as far as purchase decisions.
FUTURE OF INVITATION TO COMPARE EVENTS
The fundamentals of Hyster Company’s ITC events will always be the same. But as technology changes and evolves, Hyster plans on making alterations as necessary. The basic premise of providing the customer an opportunity to compare the essential elements of its machines with comparable products won’t change. “Objectivity is what has allowed Hyster Company to have ITC events for so many years, and there is clear value in what we do,” Laroia concludes. “I think that these events only take on more meaning as the years go by.”
Hyster Company is an operating division of NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc. (www.nmhg.com), which employs approximately 4,500 people worldwide, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of NACCO Industries, Inc. (NYSE:NC). Hyster is a registered trademark of Hyster Company in the United States and other countries.