Jade Brasher | FleetOwner
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Roeth: Getting the unfiltered voice of the customer

July 3, 2024
An effective customer experience is one that shows the customer what the change will look like and allows them to comment anonymously.

We all know how important the customer's voice is for new product development and enhancements. Human nature being what it is, customer comments are usually based on what they have already experienced. It can be difficult for them to envision something totally different from what they are familiar with.

An effective customer experience shows the customer what the change will look like and allows them to comment anonymously. Therefore, the customer can see the actual product and also provide honest and complete feedback about it.

And that is precisely what happened late in June at Eaton’s Marshall, Michigan, proving grounds when Eaton and BAE showed their version of an electric truck.

See also: Eaton and BAE collaborate on medium- and heavy-duty battery electric powertrain with a 4-speed transmission

Over three days, Eaton and BAE had separate constituencies—fleets, manufacturers, and the media—come in to see the truck. Each day consisted of four separate one-hour stations. Each person had the opportunity to drive the electric truck and drive a similar spec’d diesel truck. There was a trade show-type exhibit where each group saw chargers, Eaton’s 4-speed electric transmission, and BAE’s power electronic component. The third was a presentation from Eaton and BAE executives in which they shared more details on the truck as well as talked about their vision and the value they see the truck bringing to the market.

The fourth area was feedback, and rather than having the various constituencies talk to company officials, they spoke with NACFE staffers with the guarantee that their comments would be anonymous. Over the three days, we collected 328 “sentiments.” We used that term because it described what people felt about the truck, the components, electric trucking in general, and how the industry might value the solutions. Fleets were the most vocal with their sentiments, and we captured 153 from that group. Sentiments from manufacturers totaled 97, and the number from the media was 78. At the end of each day, we summarized the sentiments and shared them with the entire group. A lot of thoughtful, insightful feedback was given.

We’ve since met with Eaton and BAE to provide richer feedback, and executives said they will address the concerns that some of the sentiments raised.

My point in sharing details of this event is that during product development, it can be challenging to get good, usable feedback that can help you improve the product. I commend Eaton and BAE for showing “their baby” to their constituents and welcoming comments and criticism.

For other companies seeking to include the customer's voice, I would encourage them to consider the process carefully and ensure they are asking the right questions and allowing for real feedback.

While Eaton and BAE could have put on a great event without NACFE’s help, I think allowing a neutral party to debrief event attendees provided richer, deeper, and more helpful feedback. And that ultimately will help Eaton and BAE develop a product that better meets customers’ needs. This is also another one of those times when the value of collaboration is front and center. Working together leads to better results, and I hope we will see more of it as the industry continues to improve the products it offers to fleets.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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