As a business owner, you wouldn’t purchase a car or a truck without a test drive, so you shouldn’t miss that opportunity with your construction equipment. In an era when excavators, wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks are more advanced than ever, you need to thoroughly evaluate brands and models to make the most informed purchasing decisions possible when expanding your fleet.
You can certainly find a wealth of equipment information on the Internet and in product literature or videos, but those sources are largely based on specs. There is no substitute for getting in the operator’s seat and turning the key. With many manufacturers dedicating entire facilities to equipment demonstrations and hosting customer events, there has never been a better time to take those critical test drives before you invest in the machines and attachments that will become your assets.
Construction equipment manufacturers’ demonstration facilities and operation centers—whether they’re in the desert, the mountains or the forest—can play a key role in the purchasing process. These sites allow prospective and existing customers to learn more about a particular company and its brand, and to evaluate models side by side in real terrain. In most cases, they’re also fully-functioning training facilities for dealers. This typically means the product staff providing factory know-how to dealership salespeople are the same experts who are conducting customer sessions covering machine features and benefits, proper operating procedures and market applications.
Demonstration facilities are loosely based on a “proving grounds” concept that’s been successfully implemented in the military and automobile industries. This approach has developed into a viable part of many business models because it has proven worthy in helping customers make more informed decisions through experience.
1. Operate multiple machines and attachments
Whether digging, pushing, lifting, grab-bing or operating, you want to know that the performance of the next machine or attachment you choose will make the transition from a company’s literature or website to your jobsite. Properly evaluating a machine goes beyond looking at specifications. The best way to ensure you’ll get what you expect is to demo and experience firsthand how the machine performs.
Visiting a demonstration facility provides ample opportunity to complete many of the same tasks performed on your jobsites every day in an environment structured for real-world operation in challenging terrain and inclines. These are facilities built with acres of open operation area with plenty of room to see, hear and feel the differences and advantages of the machines. When making a purchase, customers often want to test each model they are considering.
Even if the dealership has every model, it can be a process to transport a 50,000-pound excavator to a jobsite for a demo. It may be far more cost-effective to visit a manufacturer’s demonstration facility to operate and evaluate all of the models in a particular lineup in side-by-side comparison.
2. Connect with product experts
Customer events at demonstration facilities offer unique opportunities for direct engagement between customers and product experts in a captive audience setting. It’s hard to trump learning from seasoned professionals who will show you important machine differences, describe key features and technologies, and help you fully evaluate equipment to make the best buying decision.
You may be starting from scratch with an unknown brand or just wanting to get a better feel for the approach a manufacturer is taking with the development of a particular equipment category or emissions strategy. A trip to a demonstration facility can provide an excellent opportunity to meet the experts who are involved in product development.
Construction equipment is changing significantly and it’s not always easy to stay current. For example, the EPA’s mandated Tier 4 federal emissions standards are driving the use of new technologies that significantly reduce the harmful contaminants contained in diesel engine exhaust. Similarly, these changes can also increase performance in areas that aren’t visible in a list of specifications. Some machines are being introduced in their final Tier 4 phase with more pushing and digging performance—a benefit you might not notice in the specs but one you’ll feel when operating the machine. These visits provide a platform to ask more in-depth questions to broaden your knowledge.
3. Learn brand culture and build rapport
Depending on the manufacturer, an invitation to a customer event can be the result of a number of things—a dealership wanting you to understand its company and its brand culture, providing the opportunity to compare model features before a final purchase or rental decision, or thanking you for your patronage. Sometimes, it’s all of these reasons.
Regardless of how a trip develops, it’s an opportunity to build rapport with factory experts, fellow customers and dealer representatives.
Customer events, while ultimately designed to be educational, usually combine learning with a little recreational entertainment and relaxation. Plus, the camaraderie that develops when traveling with your dealer representative can be priceless.
What you observe and feel at a demonstration facility can result in an experience with a machine or a dealership that is far different than a normal equipment demo. When it’s time to make a deal, you want to know that you’ve done your homework on the product, that you know what a dealership will do for you, and to have confidence that the manufacturer is really in the business.
One way to fully determine if you’re making the right choice is to accept an invitation and see for yourself.