To Us, It’s Personal
Tim Thiessen 09.07.2017
“To Us It’s Personal.” I really like this statement because it sums up (with meaning) what I have found, in my 26 years at Okuma, to be so true about our relationships with our customers. My first interactions with customers came in 1991 when I was an Application Engineer and I traveled to different states and countries to install, apply, and train customers on their new Okuma lathes. It was great to meet these folks, many of whom inherited the business from a family member or took the very big risk of stepping out and starting their own businesses. I recall always being welcomed and greatly appreciated as a person from “the factory,” even though I was young and had much to learn. I cherish those memories. I learned as much from the customers and distributors I worked with as they learned from me.
Capable Local Resource
But even if I add up all those experiences, including repeat visits to some of those same customers, I was really only Okuma for them in a small space of time. I was not aware of the ups and downs in their business in the years following. I did not get to celebrate the business or personal success they had, or have the opportunity to be aware of their struggles and help them find a way to solve them. So who stood in the place I would have liked to have been? It was our distributors. This is where the rubber meets the road and Okuma supports in the background and our valued distributor partners are the ones who become Okuma to this customer. You see, it was the distributor who saw the need to have me be at that customer in the first place. Maybe it was a machine they had never seen before, maybe they needed me to back them up since their engineers were slammed with work. Whatever the case, they identified the need and found a solution. This is what our distributors do every day. They live near our customers, they understand what’s going on in the area, but more importantly what’s going on in the back, left hand side of the shop! Our distributors have been our distributors since the first Okuma machines started hitting the shores of the Americas. Most have been with Okuma America since the early 1980s. All have been with us since the mid 1990s. This distinct organization of companies make up “Okuma”, a very stable, mature, and capable local resource to customers of Okuma products and related services.
The Voice of the Customer
So that’s the value we (Okuma and our distributors) bring to the end user of our equipment. What value does this bring to Okuma? Well, first of all it results in good decision making. Good decisions are made by having trusted input, and typically the more intel that’s available, the better. The customer feedback we get from our distributors we could never match on our own. The trust comes from relationships built up over many years and the local knowledge gained over the same time. Whether it’s how we won an order, or why we lost an order, or why a customer is satisfied or why they are not, we are able to best discern what is needed for the Americas market and negotiate with Japan on behalf of our customers. And believe me, we get the attention of Okuma Japan when we’re able to share with them the voice of the customer. I attribute that response to a culture that was built by Mr. Okuma himself who said “the criticism of one is more valuable than the praise of hundreds.”
I hope telling you a little bit of my story and the Okuma story helps you get to know Okuma better. And I hope that sometime soon I might have the honor of meeting you, the reader. Send me an invite (your distributor will be happy to connect us), or just wait, I’m not going anywhere!! Thank you for taking the time.
Tim Thiessen, CMTSE, is Vice president of Sales & Marketing, Okuma America Corporation.
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