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A special personal anniversary

July 2013

By Chuck Newcombe

Fluke TL175

Improvements in these Fluke TL175 TwistGuard™Test Leads include shrouded connections and CAT IV ratings.

Personal networking on the internet is a given these days. You can find just about any interest group you like, whether social or professional, and share information easily.

I was notified recently that someone had made a comment to my page on a professional network. When I checked it out, I found it was from someone I have known for fifty years now. Peter and I first met when he called on the aerospace lab where I worked in the early 1960s. His company made electronic instruments that we used to support production of flight hardware for the military and NASA.

Several years later, Peter joined Fluke, and we worked together on military requirements for many of my 38 years with the company. We’re both retired now, but we stay in touch.

As I look back, I realize that I have similar current connections with several Fluke customers and with other Fluke associates with more than 30-year histories. These folks live in the US, Canada, Japan, and Northern Europe.

Why good long-term end-customer relationships are important

My long customer relationships include one with a power engineer in California who had a focus on safety that he first shared with me when we introduced the 8020A Digital Multimeter in 1977. It happened at a trade show in San Francisco.

Scott was pleased with the meter, and told me how he would be able to use it in his work environment, but was critical of the test leads we were offering at the time. Over the next few months he educated me about arc flash and other hazards faced by engineers and technicians in the high energy business.

It took a while, but little by little, Fluke made the changes that have resulted in the shrouded connections and CAT IV ratings of today's test lead offerings. Scott was a valued resource to me during my career. He has traveled to the Northwest where I live, and we have visited a couple of times here since our mutual retirements.

International friendships - Japan

Several long-term friendships resulted from my first trip to Japan in 1967. I’ve been to the homes of friends in Japan, and two of them have been to mine when they traveled to the US. These were again a mix of customers and sales associates.

I saw one of the sales associates shortly before I retired in 2005. He was attending a distributor sales training meeting at Fluke headquarters.

One of the customers was an engineer for a metering company who, from our first meeting, always had challenging questions about Fluke products that his company used to support calibration requirements across the country. I heard of his pending retirement about 12 years ago, and made a point to stop in to wish him well on a return from a trip to other parts of Asia. That meeting ended in a bear hug as we said goodbye.

Another long-term Japanese customer and friend was quick to point out a subtle error in the software for our power quality analyzer - the model 41, in 1996. It took a few email exchanges before I finally understood his concern. He was right, of course, and we quickly corrected the problem to the benefit of our customers around the world.

European connections

While my current acquaintances in Europe only go back 20 years or so, I can recall several of equal time spans from the 1970s. They included academics, utility engineers, and others who were major players in the development of the IEC standards that Fluke products adhere to today.

Fluke safety engineers and I spent countless hours in meetings and conferences with these people, both contributing to the development of the standards and incorporating their requirements into our tools under development as quickly as they were defined.

It’s a two-way street

In today’s fast-moving world, it’s more difficult to establish long-term friendships with customers as those I was lucky enough to achieve during my career. But it’s important to maintain a two-way dialog with you, the end users of Fluke products. Changing technologies create new test tool requirements in your work environment, while at the same time providing new opportunities for Fluke engineers to develop even more powerful tools.

Fluke market research and product support folks do their best to anticipate developing needs through customer surveys, visits, and the like, but sometimes it takes the vocal customer to point them in directions they might not have pursued.

I know I valued the criticisms provided by folks like Scott, and my friends in Japan and Europe, as they helped me define improved products for Fluke. They were win-win relationships.