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Caterpillar adopts new survey tool

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By Fara Young

Challenge: The new year has brought fresh customer survey tools to Caterpillar, the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines.

Until last month, Caterpillar, which is both a Six Sigma and Fortune 100 company, practiced traditional survey methods to reach out to its internal and external customers. Caterpillar employed dissimilar survey systems and software—some built in-house—in multiple departments of its organization. The Peoria, Ill.-based company sends out between 5,000 and 6,000 surveys a year.

"Previous surveying methods were largely paper and e-mail based, which required hand tabulation and considerable employee resources," said Ted Pauly, a Six Sigma Black Belt in Caterpillar’s IT department.

"It was a nightmare to manage and a nightmare from a training standpoint," said Barry Eaton, Midwest director of sales at Perseus, an enterprise feedback management company that Caterpillar chose last September to reorganize its survey system. "[Caterpillar] also faced the issue of different skill levels for end users."

Solution:Caterpillar has begun using Perseus’ SurveySolutions/ Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM), a centrally controlled, Web-enabled survey program. EFM gave Caterpillar secure surveys, user-friendly interfaces suitable for novice and advanced survey respondents, and multilingual support.

In addition to standardizing Caterpillar’s surveys, EFM created a Web-based system that enabled Caterpillar to track current market status and simultaneous customer conditions in real time—a departure from constraining desktop survey software. Caterpillar simply sends clients an e-mail with a link to Perseus’ EFM Web page, where they fill out the survey. "IT has been taken out of the loop completely," said Eaton.

Workflow capabilities have also improved with EFM because Caterpillar can now centrally control the individual users within the survey process. And even though thousands of Caterpillar employees survey customers, "EFM supports this approach, thus allowing [Caterpillar] to survey internal and external customers much more easily and completely than ever before," said Pauly, who led the company’s implementation of EFM.

Results: Caterpillar hopes its new surveys’ consistent appearance will help strengthen the company brand, which remains an important priority, Pauly said.

In addition, EFM may greatly improve Caterpillar’s data monitoring and trend spotting in the future. "Since we now have one tool, when we get the data back, we can build a data warehouse in one location," he said.

Pauly also said he expects that once Caterpillar fully implements EFM, it will release several thousand surveys a year. "The employee labor cost savings on that number of surveys is expected to pay for the tool many times over," he said.

"For the 100-plus Six Sigma Black Belts who have been given the tool, the feedback has been fantastic," said Pauly. "They have made comments that this tool has made their job of capturing customer requirements much easier and something they have needed for years."

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