While working as a Peoria-based dealer customer representative in 2009, Antonio Banegas saw an opportunity.
"When international dealers and customers would visit our U.S. facilities, they didn't always have interpreters," he recalled. "There was a real need for an interpreter program at Caterpillar. I took the idea to my boss, and we reached out to the Global Diversity & Inclusion Office. It all started from there."
Four years later, the Caterpillar Dealer Customer Interpreter (DCI) Program is improving communications and impacting sales. Working closely with Corporate Customer Services, the 128 volunteer DCI members help create a world-class tour experience for the company's numerous visitors.
"We hosted nearly 25,000 visitors at our Peoria, Decatur and Aurora factories last year," said Corporate Customer Services Manager Patty Redpath. "About 20 percent of those visitors were from outside the U.S. Some brought their own interpreters, but many did not. It's absolutely critical to the success of our tours to have DCI members available. They help make our dealers and customers feel welcome and appreciated."
Banegas collaborates with Caterpillar Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to find qualified volunteers. With 70 global chapters and more than 6,000 members, ERGs bring value to the enterprise and drive innovative solutions. The DCI-ERG partnership covers such languages as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
"It's not about what we can get from the company, it's what we can give to the company," said Banegas. "If just one purchase happens because of the DCI program, then it's been very worthwhile for all of us. But I can tell you, we've helped with a lot more than one purchase. The program helps differentiate us from the competition by providing a truly world-class experience."
Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman noted how often he hears from dealers and customers regarding the value of DCI services.
"This program is a real competitive advantage for Caterpillar. I can't tell you how important this program is," said Oberhelman. "When I travel around the world, I don't speak every language. I've missed some conversations, and I've felt excluded. There's a powerful diversity and inclusion message there for all of us."