Skil Power Tools takes their customers very seriously. That’s why they created the Skil Consumer Council. According to public relations executive, Rebekah Metts, the company decided to select six people from across North America and find out how “average Joes” really use their tools. After a weekend of training and getting to know each other in Chicago – the company’s headquarters — the six went home to begin home improvement projects. Skil sent along a pile of tools and a little folding money ($250) for supplies. In exchange, Council members were asked to tell the company honestly about their experiences.
With know-how ranging from novice to expert, the six took on a wide assortment of ventures. Two tackled door framing, while three others completed work on nursery furniture, lattice trim for a deck, and a trellis, respectively. The sixth member, Len Tedeschi, took on a uniquely practical project. He and his wife, Leah, decided to build a workbench?one that was easy to store in a garage workshop, big enough to be useful, and had storage for all those new Skil tools!
By day, Len Tedeschi is a engineering manager at a high-tech company in San Jose, California. On weekends and some evenings, he becomes what he calls “an intermediate do-it-yourself-er.” Including new and soon to released models, he received a grand total of 18 tools (including four circular saws) from Skil. Adapting plans they bought online, he and his wife went to work, e-mailing to Skil (and other Council members) regular installments of their project journal. They reported the tools used for each step and any problems they encountered.
As he documented his progress, Len also passed on several valuable suggestions to Skil. When he used the table saw, he always pulled it out onto the driveway to cut down on sawdust in the garage. After dragging the heavy machine out a couple of times, he decided that locking wheels would be really helpful. And to differentiate each tool’s almost identical case, Len recommended stickers be included to identify each tool by name and serial number. In fact, he thought, two sets of stickers should be provided — one for the case and one to file away — so there’s an easy way to identify borrowed tools.
What was Len’s overall reaction to Skil’s tools?
“I liked the tools. There were a few areas for improvement, but overall I was very impressed.”
Two tools he really liked were the 18-volt cordless drill (“it was weighted and balanced properly and the battery lasted all day”) and the cordless circular saw (“the light weight made it perfect for Leah to use”).
Len put all his new tools through their paces. To compare actual performance with specification, he deliberately used a too-light voltage drill to try to cut a one-inch hole. He was unsuccessful, but he verified the limits of the drill. Another experiment showed that a corded drill wasn’t well balanced…the head was too heavy, and anyone drilling horizontal holes would quickly become fatigued. (You can read all about Len and Leah’s workbench project at Skil’s website.)
Skil has been extremely receptive to Len’s input and all the advice they’ve gotten from the Council members. Tool designers and product managers will use the information to build better tools and market tools better.
Over the year of the Council’s tenure, members will each complete four projects. Their feedback has already proved so useful that Skil has requested that they extend their participation for an additional six months. To aquire even more consumer advice, Skil gave members additional tools to pass along to friends for their evaluation.