Helping people solve problems with technologies both new and old

Helping people solve problems with technologies both new and old

By Ron Winkler

Director of Aftermarket

When I tell people I’m the Director of Aftermarket for Big Joe Forklifts, they usually reply, “Oh, like parts and stuff, right?”  I’ll say, “Yes,” but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg, the “stuff” is often the most important element.  Aftermarket is the face of Big Joe once the truck goes out for delivery.  We’re the Customer Service and Support team and first point of contact for dealers, service technicians and end users.

Aftermarket covers all the ongoing needs of our products, starting the moment a product leaves our facility. For the balance of the truck’s service life we’re responsible for technical support, parts support, documentation, training, warranty claims and any modifications that need to be made. This is true on both sides of the equation, meaning we have to maintain an accurate product database internally, and effectively project it to our network externally.  This is no easy feat as we have been manufacturing and distributing forklifts for over 65 years. Based on the quality of our products is it not unusual to be having a conversation about a unit that is over 50 years old.

Ron Winkler gives a presentation on a 1963 Big Joe model PD20 which was still functional when traded in in 2019.

When I started with Big Joe as an apprentice field mechanic in 1986, we were issued a portable microfiche reader that plugged into the cigarette lighter of our service vans.  The screen was so small that I had to carry a magnifying lens with me so I could read the fine print. That’s how we looked up part numbers and prices for CIA customers or for quotes.  It wasn’t very easy or efficient, but it was better than loading every service manual and update bulletin into the van!  Now I am continually amazed with what we can accomplish with a smart phone in the palm of our hands.

Our commitment to our products really is unique, in that we do support those trucks dating back to the early days of Big Joe. Back to the days of hand drawn prints, paper manuals with supplements then on to microfiche, CD’s, DVDs and eventually online. I’ve spent the last 35 years trying to use technology to our advantage without losing sight of our customer service goals. It is non-stop from every direction and takes a tremendous amount of effort to keep it all going.

During my time in the material handling industry I have seen how technology can help, but there is no substitute for good old-fashioned customer service. Don’t get me wrong using technology to organize and present decades of technical information is a huge help. Making sure we quickly share updated information benefits our customers and our support team. Yet, for all the advancements in technology there is nothing more important than having an expert team that picks up the phone when it rings and has the answers you need to get your problem solved right the first time. You can see this philosophy throughout our organization. We don’t hide our support phone number on our website hoping that you spend your own time figuring things out, we have it displayed on our banner on every page because we have real live product experts ready and happy to help.

Today our primary tool for our customers and our support team is a website This single receptacle for all support subjects related to Big Joe provides our team and our dealers access to up to the minute real-time information.  They can search by part number, by model and serial number, prices, inventory levels, warranty and support documents then place their parts orders for shipment however and wherever needed. Needless to say, having a single portal for all of this data is a tremendous advantage when suppling timely accurate support information.

Making the entire aftermarket customer service experience operate seamlessly for our customers is really an art form. It takes a team of dedicated professionals working every day to ensure that technical support documents, illustrations, pricing, part numbers, supersessions, RGA’s, and warranties are kept up to date.  They are essential in each and every transaction, and every interaction.

It takes a particular type of person to work in aftermarket as we rarely get calls to tell what a great job we’re doing. For everyone in the department, it is a constant challenge to overcome a customer’s problem and have a first-time resolution. Yes, we have some cool high-tech tools to help as most companies do today but we have not lost sight of the simple old fashion personal touch that comes from “Big Joe Forklifts, How May I Help You?”