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July 2024

Shopping with Björn Meyne

Buying a municipal vehicle is a bit like buying a conventional car: checking out the demonstrator, exploring the optional extras, taking a test drive. But then again, many things are quite different. Björn Meyne, Technical Customer Support at Zöller-Kipper, talks about the differences and similarities.

Come in, get in, drive round – it’s not quite as uncomplicated as in a car dealership. How does the prospective customer get a test drive?

As a rule, the customer, or potential customer, makes an enquiry. The sales department then asks me what we have in the way of demonstrators. There are always three to four vehicles in the yard, X4, X2, one with a crane, one with Epsilon on it and one with hydrogen fuel cell technology. Of course, the vehicles are also sold, but then new ones arrive. Most of the vehicles we have available for demonstrations are standardised. But that doesn’t mean, of course, that we don’t look closely at the customers’ needs. From the tender, we already know pretty much exactly what is needed, whether for the city centre or the countryside, manoeuvrability, payload and so on.
And if our sales department has been on site, they have already seen what the customer drives – the previous models, which containers, which fractions, which routes. We then select the perfect vehicle to match.
One example: New development areas are always densely built-up: The X4 H extension 21.5m3, short wheelbase with Econic is ideal here, you’ve already won in tight areas! With the H variant, of course, you have to pay a little attention to the route because of bridges and other height restrictions.

And then?

Let’s go for a spin. No, seriously: as a rule, this is followed by a week-long test on site with the vehicle of choice or the most suitable vehicle. This is then delivered to the customer – either by a haulage company or I drive it myself. On the Monday after arrival, there is a demonstration with the management, safety officer and drivers, and from Tuesday it’s off on the road. In the morning, I’m usually still behind the wheel, especially with special vehicles, and then the customer’s drivers. I’m still involved, of course, and also drive on the running board with the loaders, from whom we also get questions, suggestions and requests. We then see what we can implement.

What are the top three loader requests?

Popular and often requested are a hand-wash facility, grip heating and – a bottle holder …

And where do you ride?

We drive the normal tours on which the van is to be used. After all, we want to show what it can do. For example, saving labour, saving fuel, making work more comfortable or enabling more effective route planning. To do this, I create a demonstration report: start and end times, hydrogen or fuel consumption, tonnage transported and many more details. The sales department receives this for a personal meeting, i.e. the follow-up, where the vehicle is then customised for the order, so to speak.

But if a vehicle is so convincing during the demonstration that the customer says “I want it”, that’s also clear. It’s really like in a car dealership, where no salesperson would say: “No, you can’t have that car!”

How do you actually become a municipal vehicle demonstrator?

Technical customer service / demonstrations is the official name here … As far as I know, there’s no set path. I responded to a newspaper advert 20 years ago, as a classic career changer. Zwo weeks after the interview the company at the time said: “Welcome!” I then worked in production for a whole year and got to know everything before switching to the driver’s seat.

In 20 years, you really get around. Surely there were some very special experiences?

I once had a mega breathtaking experience at a company in Austria, where I demonstrated a side loader. We drove it up into the mountains to a vineyard that was famous in the area for its snacks. You could just help yourself and take it out of a barrel like this. So we drove up into the mountains with snow chains – it was snowing and then we had to drive down the whole steep mountain again. My heart was really in my mouth, but the driver just laughed.
And the landscape was simply marvellous, the mountain panorama and then our side loader and this steep slope in front of me … I’ll never forget it! I’ve never put on snow chains for a demonstration before. When have you ever done that …

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