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Amid Name Change, Customer Service Standards Stay High

Thu August 09, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Lori Lovely

“There were a lot of good people in Mocksville,” reminisced Dan Marion, former manager of parts marketing and aftermarket of Ingersoll Rand, in reference to the newer Doosan Portable Power Division in North Carolina. “It was the best group for customer support.”

Many from that group now work for Doosan Portable Power and ASC Construction Equipment USA Inc., perpetuating the level of product knowledge and customer service Ingersoll Rand was known for. Ingersoll Rand, a $14 billion global company formed in 1905 when Simon Ingersoll, head of Ingersoll Rock Drill Company since 1871, merged with Rand Drill Company. In 2007, Ingersoll Rand sold the Utility Equipment division to Doosan Infracore creating what is now called Doosan Portable Power.

In October , the final transition from Ingersoll Rand to Doosan will be complete, but the quality of products, parts, sales, rental and service will remain the same.

“There’s little change for the customer,” Dan indicated.

“Doosan saw value in the expertise and knowledge of the people in that division and didn’t want to lose them, so it bought and renovated a facility nearby to keep the workforce in place,” explained Dan’s son, Matt Marion, segment manager for portable power of ASC, a distributor for Doosan Portable Power. “It’s been a smooth transition.”

From Hoops to Hoopla

To help that transition go smoothly, the elder Marion worked as a consultant to Ingersoll Rand and Doosan Portable Power for a year after his official retirement in 2006. Dan, who hails from western Elkin, N.C., vividly recalled the day he was hired at Ingersoll Rand.

“It was January 26, 1966. I couldn’t forget it.” The then-19-year-old attracted the attention of company executives when he competed in a basketball tournament over the Thanksgiving holiday in 1965. A phone call and subsequent interview culminated in a job offer.

“[They] wanted me to help hire the basketball team so Ingersoll Rand would be known,” Dan recalled.

Just the ninth employee hired at the Mocksville location, Dan joked that the job offer was an athletic scholarship since it was a basketball tournament that got him noticed. Over the next 40 years, he rose through the ranks at Ingersoll Rand, starting in an entry-level position, unloading trucks by hand. After a few months, he moved up to the storeroom, then on to inventory control and purchasing. Later, he spent half the day working with engineering staff and the other half in quality control. Eventually, he became a customer service supervisor before landing in parts and accessories marketing.

Because he considered customer service essential, during his career Dan made a significant impact on company philosophy in regards to customer service by implementing many ground-breaking ideas.

“We were changing the philosophy to make it more customer-focused than manufacturer-focused. That was new then.”

He said the idea came to him when the interstates were being built.

“If a compressor went down, the work stopped. It made me realize the need for customer service.”

Customer service and education were hallmarks of Dan’s career. He frequently guided groups on tours through the facility. As the person in charge of inventory worldwide, he implemented procedures that ensured 98 percent of all orders were shipped the same day — including stock orders.

Other changes occurred at Ingersoll Rand during his term, such as a five-year/10,000-hour warranty at a time when competitors offered only a two- or three-year warranty.

“Other manufacturers tried to copy us,” Dan said, “but they didn’t have the people we did. We’re here for you if you need us.”

He said his hand-picked crew “would work until 10 p.m. if they needed to” and recalled one night when he and another employee drove an 18-wheeler from North Carolina to Columbus, Ohio, because the customer needed the equipment. “That’s dedication.”

It Runs in the Family

In addition to traveling extensively on business and working long hours, Dan sometimes brought his work home. Just as he often guided tours through the facility, he habitually invited employees and clients to his home for dinner. He chuckled as he recalled giving his wife little notice of having invited 30 clients for dinner one night, adding that many company clients met his family. “If you came to Mocksville, you met my wife.”

You probably also met his son, Matt, who followed in his father’s footsteps in the industry.

“He grew up in the business by design,” Dan said. “I wanted him to recognize people in the industry. I brought Matt along when I took employees or guests to dinner and made a point not to sit with him. He sat with customers.”

Luckily, he added, Matt is the best “people person” he knows, so he handled the business-social situations with a smile. In fact, he’s such a people person that everyone wants to see him when he makes the rounds as a rep for Doosan Portable Power, covering the Carolinas and eastern Tennessee.

“I know everybody,” Matt laughed. It hardly seems like an exaggeration because at times it’s difficult to break away from catching up with so many old friends during his sales calls.

“People are my number- one interest in the industry,” Matt said. “I have a lot of respect for the people I’ve met … and for my father. I learned a lot from him.”

Having watched his father at work, Matt observed his passion and witnessed the relationships he built around the world.

“I learned about dedication at an early age, and how important passion, pride and relationships are.” Extended Family Business

Relationships are an integral part of this business. Matt believes that a great deal of ASC’s success stems from long-term relationships like the one Brad Stimmel, president, has maintained with Doosan Portable Power. In addition, Stimmel has worked to improve product knowledge and support, Matt said, foreseeing the importance of a customer-driven focus.

Stimmel’s nearly 40-year ongoing relationship with Doosan Portable Power is not uncommon. Dan lists several former Ingersoll Rand employees now with Doosan Portable Power who have 20 to 40 years with the brand: Steve Sadler and Tommy Gobble, service; Eric Southern, Dwight Creason and Brian Crawford, aftermarket sales; Rita Moore, sales; and Dave Stahlman and Ted Flatt, marketing. Another longtime former Ingersoll Rand employee, Dave Reger, became an ASC segment manager.

Like all the people Dan worked with, they “know the product and how to treat the customer,” he said. “They’re very, very good at what they do.”

Now many of them are working with Matt.

“I have the opportunity to meet friends he made through work,” Matt said. “It’s nice to have a personal relationship with them.”

It’s the expertise and tenure of this group that gives Doosan Portable Power and ASC an advantage, Matt believes.

“They understand the customer’s needs and application. As a dealer, we’re a consultant for the customer.”

They’re effective consultants because many of them, like Matt, “cut their teeth in this business on the job,” as Dan phrased it. Matt, who once considered a career in baseball, worked at Ingersoll Rand during the summers while he was earning three college degrees. He learned about the equipment and the business while he was establishing relationships.

He went on to work for Mitchell Distributing Company and Terex before joining ASC. Working for a manufacturer gave him an education, Matt said. “It helps you understand things and see it from another side.”

Dan explained that many of the former Ingersoll Rand employees have field experience or started in the parts or service department.

“We continuously trained counter and service people and promoted those with potential. It’s not just about the product; it’s about sales technique and customer service.”

Ingersoll Rand and Doosan are known for quality, but ultimately, Dan said, it’s the people “who made this business worthwhile.” Matt believes where they really shine is with service after the sale. “Product support sells the second machine.”

Doosan Portable Power provides ASC with “good factory support,” Matt said. Just being located so close to the Doosan Portable Power factory in Statesville, N.C., benefits ASC. “We do factory tours. If we get a customer into the factory, our chance at a sale doubles.”

Keeping Priorities Straight

Family always came first, Matt recalled. “Somehow Dad juggled his hours so he could come to my Little League games. He always supported me 100 percent. He instilled family values in me.”

Watching Dan achieve balance between family and work as he earned respect from his employees influenced Matt. A family man now himself, Matt still lives in Mocksville and talks to Dan daily.

“Matt is not only my son,” Dan said, “he’s also my best friend.” Father and son talk shop over dinner once a week, although Dan said it’s hard for a father to give advice when the business has changed. But the customers haven’t changed. “They want a good price, service and after-market sales.”

It’s one of many lessons Matt learned from his father.

“The customer comes first: no ifs, ands or buts. We take care of the customer’s needs and treat every situation individually. ASC and Doosan Portable Power understand a sense of urgency and the importance of equipment as an integral part of our customers’ success.”

Facilitating communication and fostering a strong relationship with the manufacturer also benefits the customer in the long run. Matt believes that the segment manager position offers a single point of contact for the manufacturers, providing a better communication channel and allowing him to build a stronger partnership.

Whether it’s Dan or Matt Marion, Ingersoll Rand or Doosan Portable Power, some things — like quality and customer service – simply don’t change.

Lori Lovely

Lori Lovely is an award-winning journalist, editor and author of the children's book Isadora's Dance. She has worked for newspapers, magazines and niche publications, covering a wide-ranging list of topics that includes motor sports, construction, MSW, energy, environmental issues, water, animal rights and issues, history, Native American issues and people, real estate and home decor, farming and more. Her degrees in History taught this dedicated professional to research thoroughly and ask detailed questions in order to winnow interesting facts that convey the essence of the story. As a seasoned writer and compassionate storyteller, she accurately portrays the subject in a manner that entrances the reader.

When she's not working on assignment, Lori is tending to her historic Indiana farm, where she raises alpacas. An inveterate animal lover, this vegetarian enjoys spending time with her animals and working in her garden.

Read more from Lori Lovely here.

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