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Customer Satisfaction with Every Electric Lift Truck Sale

Written by William C. Shumay Jr. for Arcon Equipment Inc., published in the Material Handling Wholesaler
copyright © William C. Shumay Jr.
For more articles, please visit http://www.arconequipment.com

When an electric lift truck is sold, the seller has an important step to take to help ensure customer satisfaction. That is the simple transfer of information about the lift truck battery and charger. This is especially important if the customer is the ultimate end user of the lift truck, and the idea of a battery-powered vehicle is new to him or her – but battery information is vital to wholesale customers too.

What sort of information? Let’s break it into categories:

  1. Expected battery capabilities
  2. Charger rating and hookup information
  3. Proper battery maintenance and charging
  4. Diagnostic procedures and whom to contact for battery attention

The first point, "Expected battery capabilities", can be a difficult one, but it should be addressed with the customer to avoid some misunderstanding about lift truck run time. No one can readily predict the number of hours a certain battery will operate a specific lift truck on a single charge – not without a thorough knowledge of the work that the lift truck will be doing during its shift. Generally however, electric lift trucks have been designed so that a complete 8–hour "typical" work shift can be handled by the battery that properly fills the lift truck compartment. Put a smaller battery in the truck, or an old battery, and the user will get degrees less run time – the difference depending on how far away from the "original equipment" battery you are.

If you don’t have solid information about the battery (percentage of original capacity figure), you and your customer are both at a disadvantage in the sale. You cannot get top dollar for the truck/battery combination if the battery is in "as–is, unknown condition". This is where your local battery technician earns his keep. A standard battery discharge test will provide a fairly complete picture of where the battery stands today, as well as what can be expected in the future based on age, brand and signs of past abuse. Interestingly, some very ugly looking batteries (due to superficial, albeit extensive, corrosion) can test out to be very good. With minor repair, such a diamond in the rough can add to the value of the electric lift truck package, increase profit, and help close the sale.

Set up information

If the customer can’t get a satisfactory charge into his battery due to charger set-up problems, he isn’t going to be happy, and may take up your time trying to sort the situation out. Once again, your local battery technician can help identify the proper charger rating and AC input voltage settings if you have any doubt at all about the charger’s suitability for the application. It is a good idea to have your technician verify proper operation of the charger through its full cycle (including proper shutdown). Sending a lift truck out with a charger that is an undocumented, unknown factor is inviting a problem on the other end.

Chargers must match the battery in voltage and ampere–hour rating and must be clearly labeled with the AC input voltage for which the charger is set. Proper charger operation is important to the health of the battery. Most of the battery’s "aging process" is caused by the workout the battery gets during the charge cycle, so we need to pay close attention to the charger specs. Note: Most electricians have no problem wiring a charger to the customer’s AC lines, but if the charger is set for a differing AC voltage, the electrician may be unable to properly change the charger’s internal taps to convert it. Your battery technician can provide technical support here.

Proper Battery Maintenance and Charging

Given that the charger is of the correct size, works properly, and has been installed correctly, the user has to do his part by ensuring that the battery gets a proper charge as needed. With modern automatic controls, (auto-on/off) correct charging means discharging the battery to no more than 80% capacity (the red zone on hydrometers and truck battery gauges) and allowing the charger to run until it shuts itself off (typically 8 hr of uninterrupted charge time). Putting the battery on the charger before it is discharged to this point does no harm, as long as the charger is allowed to proceed through its cycle to shut-down. Lead acid batteries do not develop any problems as a result of incomplete discharging.

Watering? As needed to ensure that the liquid (electrolyte) level in each cell does not drop out of sight. Avoid filling the cells full- leave room for the rise in level that occurs during charging (this can be as much as an inch). This is not a big chore. In many applications, water level need only be checked twice a month or less. By avoiding overfilling, and subsequent overflow, the user prevents the ugly corrosion that is often seen around the edges of the steel battery case.

Diagnostic Procedures

A word to the customer about who can help with battery questions or difficulties in the future is a good step. The ultimate diagnostic procedure is the user’s job: keeping track of the battery’s performance and noting any decline over time. Damage to battery cables or other electrical connections on top of the battery are an immediate safety concern and must be properly repaired by a qualified technician. Unusual charger behavior is easier to spot if chargers, batteries, and trucks are numbered, and performance deviations are logged in some systematic fashion.

Ultimately, customer satisfaction hinges on a generous transfer of information – and the key to satisfactory electric lift truck operation is the battery and charger combination. Take the extra step to keep your customers informed.

For more information, contact Arcon Equipment Inc. (440) 232-1422.

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