Too often we look for big “I” innovations.  Splashy new ways to communicate with customers, enter orders, or provide detailed product information.  But there are small “I” ways to innovate, which I saw on a recent trip to Yancey Brothers, a Caterpillar dealer in Atlanta, GA. 

The Problem of Serving a Smaller Customer!

Yancey wanted to increase their consumable parts sales to customers who purchased smaller equipment (skid steer loaders, mini-excavators, etc.).  Many purchasers of this type of equipment have a one or a few pieces of equipment, so if one is down, it makes it hard to get projects done.  Typically, they do not have a large staff of people, so it makes it hard for them to send someone to pick up parts.  Because of these factors, they often turned to the local auto parts store to pick up filters, belts, etc., rather than ordering from Yancey. 

Possible Solution

The Yancey team did some brainstorming and decided if the customer isn’t coming to them, they will go to the customer.  They started with one small truck (shown above and below) wrapped in great advertising so customers can’t miss them.  They assigned an experienced product support sales representative to drive a route where they knew customers were likely to be. 

Has it Worked?

Instead of just one truck, they now have three; one is assigned to a product support sales representative and the other to a former service technician.  Another is assigned to a bilingual speaker, so they can more adequately cover their market.  Customers are happy and purchasing parts from Yancey—business the company would likely not have gotten in the past. 

Why this Small “I” Innovation Worked

Pause for a second and think about this innovation.  What made it work?

Convenience for the customer is a key to its success. Remember time is of the essence for these customers.  Downtime is a killer.  This accessibility helps them maintain productivity.  Moreover, they can get advice from a Yancey professional about other aspects of equipment operation.  It helps them to operate more efficiently. 
They tailored the cost structure to meet the market needs. Yancey does not try to have every part a customer might need or want; only the most frequently used.  They keep a good supply of high volume parts in a small van, which is economical to operate. 
There will be times the part needed by the customer is not in the van. For the customer, this is an additional win.  Rather than spending time on the phone or visiting a Yancey location, the Yancey representative can take the customer’s order right there on the site.  A win for both supplier and customer.

Why is this working for Yancey?  One straightforward phrase—they are making it easy to do business with them.  Something that other companies such as Amazon, Chewy (check it out), and others are doing. 

Yancey’s innovation did not require a significant expenditure on new technology or other expense for major plant and equipment (outside of some small vans and a minor inventory investment).  It is small “I” innovation but essential to the customer service experience nonetheless. 


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