08 April 2021
YOU DON'T DEFINE YOUR BRAND - YOUR CUSTOMERS DO
Derek Bastow, a second-generation excavation and earth-moving contractor from Pakenham in Victoria, had just taken the controls of his brand-new Komatsu D65-16 for the first time when it suffered a major malfunction.
Derek was on a big farming job which couldn't afford a hiccough, and worse, both his sons Tim and Colin - the third generation of Bastow Construction - had already driven the new bulldozer.
But Derek was in the seat when it stopped, a source of family mirth and personal embarrassment.
"Derek rang me looking for an instant solution," Andrew Fowkes, Komatsu's major account manager, quarries said, understating the tone of the call.
The timing couldn't have been more poor - Andrew was in hospital recovering from surgery, but Derek didn't know that.
By the following morning a loan machine had been delivered to Derek's job, and some-time later a brand-new bulldozer had replaced the one that had malfunctioned.
"It was completely unexpected," Derek said.
"I'd anticipated they might try to repair the engine or even replace it, and I was bracing for a battle over warranty provisions."
Instead, Komatsu had acted promptly to resolve an issue which was obviously a one-off and they had in the process created a customer for life.
"It doesn't matter what company you are, at some time you're going to run into a problem - and it's how you handle it that makes the difference," Andrew said.
"I'd been with Komatsu for 15 years and never experienced a difficulty like this before.
"I just knew if we didn't act promptly, he was going to be in trouble."
The Bastow-response could very easily become a case-study in customer service, alongside the launch of luxury car maker Lexus back in 1989, when a voluntary recall of 8000 of the very first cars launched could have sunk the brand.
Instead, the company's quick action gave Lexus its reputation for customer care.
A&KA Bastow and Son, now entering its fourth generation with the birth of Derek's grandsons Beau, two, and Bailey, one, is typical of the family owned contractors serving their local farming communities and who rely strongly on their relationships with their machinery suppliers.
"We've recently taken delivery of our first Komatsu PC350LC-8 excavator and it's fair to say that we bought it as a result of the bulldozer experience," Derek said.
Bastow is by no means a Komatsu-exclusive operation.
The brand makes up less than half of Bastow's 25 strong machinery fleet but, where there is an appropriate choice at the time of replacement, Derek will call on Komatsu.
The proof is in the business's oldest surviving piece of machinery, a Komatsu D65-8 bulldozer, bought by Derek's father Austin in 1985.
"I came into the business at 15, just like my sons," Derek said, "and that bulldozer became mine."
Derek's boys call it the Old Girl, and while it is now coming up to 20,000 hours and on light duties, it still plays an active role.
Along with the company's three other Komatsu bulldozers, it is currently completing the construction of what is claimed to be the area's biggest dam, a 25-acre 380 megalitre excavation for Schreuers and Sons, one of the country's largest celery growers.
The Bastows and the Schreuers are long-standing families of the West Gippsland area of Victoria and typify the relationship between the farming community and their contractors.
"My father and I have worked with Theo and Tom Schreurs, and both our boys are now working together," Derek said.
Derek collaborated with the Schreurs family to design their dam at Tarwin Lower, built 100 km further east within Gippsland as the Melbourne urban sprawl continues to claim increasingly valuable farming land around Pakenham.
For the Bastows, the housing explosion has provided dual opportunity.
They continue to service their traditional farming clients while also providing machinery to quarry operators like Holcim at Pakenham, an opportunity for the family to continue to expand its business in the region.
"Beau and Bailey are already sitting on my knee on the D65-8- the Old Girl - not when its working of course," Derek said.
It's likely to be part of their legacy.
Marketing Manager Australasia| Komatsu Mining Corp. Group
95 Mustang Drive, Rutherford, NSW 2320
M: +61 416 076 230
The new Komatsu D65EX in all its glory, ready for work in the Victorian Gippsland.
L to R: The Bastow range of Komatsu D65EX bulldozers from the oldest to the newest.