Brandon Hess (R), Carolina CAT’s new vice president of product support for its construction division, chats with Steve Newman, service technician at the company’s Charlotte facility.
When Carolina CAT decided last year that it needed a dynamic new personality to be the face of its renewed emphasis on customer service, it turned to Brandon J. Hess, a man who has worked in all facets of the construction equipment business during his career.
Western North Carolina’s Caterpillar dealer, Carolina CAT put Hess to work Nov. 15, 2009, as the company’s new vice president of product support for its construction division.
Since that time, Hess has spent most of his time learning the ins and outs of the company.
“Getting to know the personnel at Carolina CAT was critical and so I have focused a tremendous amount of time on our culture and organization,” he said.
This will put him in a much stronger position with the customers as he begins to learn what their needs are. He has to be able to know whom to call at Carolina CAT so he feels confident his commitments will be delivered and superior to any other service provider in the area, he said.
And make no mistake, Hess wants to plant but one thought in his customers’ minds: that Carolina CAT is the only place they should even think to turn to in the event of an equipment need or service problem, even if the problem might not involve Caterpillar. He wants the customer to think of Carolina CAT first, no matter what brand of equipment they are using, when a service need arises.
“We want to own the service business in the Carolinas,” Hess said recently from his Charlotte office. “I want to be able to go to a customer and provide him support across his fleet. Because not every customer has 100 percent Caterpillar equipment, I’ve got to have the technical expertise and the parts support to be able to provide that service to him and I am going to be able to do that here.”
You get the unmistakable feeling in talking to Hess that when he says something, you can take it to the bank.
“CAT dealers are typically sales-driven organizations, but Carolina CAT is going to be more than that. It’s going to be a sales-and-service-driven organization.”
Hess oversees a large contingent of service technicians, numbering about 110, spread throughout the company’s nine locations in western North Carolina. Those stores are in Charlotte, Greensboro (at two locations), Monroe, Asheville, Dillsboro, Boone, Hickory and Statesville.
Besides managing the technicians and their support areas, he is responsible for product support sales within Carolina CAT’s construction division, and the parts operation across all divisions.
Hess came to Carolina CAT after working the previous 11 years at Yancey Brothers Co., the Caterpillar dealer in Georgia. At Yancey, Hess worked in all three phases of product support to include managing parts and service departments. Hess also spent time in product support sales calling on corporate accounts in a customer facing position. It was here that Hess began to understand what delivering superior service and exceeding customer’s expectations really meant.
“The experiences that I gained at Yancey Bros. Co. will be the ones I rely on at Carolina CAT. Working with such a sound owner and experienced leadership group was a great platform, one that should enable me to be successful in the future. It put me in a position to come to Carolina CAT and use my experience and skills to deliver on our goal of being the top performing Cat dealer by 2012.”
This theme is one that resounds throughout Carolina CAT these days and you can see the commitment from the top down to deliver on this goal.
“I was never responsible for the entire entity, but having worked in all three areas at different times gave me a well-rounded perspective on product support and a team first mentality that I will continue to utilize at Carolina CAT to be the top performing Cat dealer.”
Carolina CAT employs about 40 full-service field trucks, each equipped with tooling, cranes, welders and air compressors. In addition the company has full service shop facilities at all locations, and is capable of providing its many customers a 24-hour service and parts capability, which includes a parts drop-box service to more than 100 locations.
“We have set it up so that a customer can order a part today at 5 p.m. and have it dropped to his location overnight so that he will have it ready to work at 7 a.m. the next day,” Hess said.
Hess looks back to his experiences as an Airborne Ranger in the U.S. Army, as helping to really broaden his understanding of what leadership means.
“If you can convince a young Ranger to follow you into a situation where he might die, you should be able to lead an organization to common business goals.”
Undoubtedly, Carolina CAT didn’t hire Hess solely for his experience, but due also to his leadership and clear-eyed vision of the company’s exciting future.
When asked if he was hired to strengthen the company’s already good reputation for customer service, he replied in a measured, thoughtful manner.
“I would say that Carolina CAT has an outstanding history of ownership and has constantly displayed the ability to be progressive and develop new ways to deliver a great product and superior service. There was a need for someone with a different perspective, to look at areas of the company from a different angle and I have been given that wonderful opportunity. The ownership and management group at Carolina Tractor are extremely talented and me playing a role on their team is a great privilege.”
As Carolina CAT strives towards their 2012 goal of being the top performing Cat dealer, Hess will keep his eyes clearly focused on safety, the customer’s expectations, his technical workforce and his leadership team. If all of these areas remain the forefront of Carolina CAT, they will “own the service business” and remain the Carolina’s leading service provider.