Relationships and communication are two big elements needed for fleets to have success with outside service providers, according to Jill Gingrich, vice president and marketing director of WheelTime Network.
I spoke with her after reading about the launch of WheelTime’s new mobile app. She said strong relationships and communication between fleets and service providers were of paramount importance to getting trucks back on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic when every repair was a high priority.
Gingrich shared her tips for success, starting with the need for open communications. “Include your service provider in your communication forums,” she advised fleets. “Connect with them regularly to collaborate on expediting the overall repair process.” When a fleet treats its service provider as an extension of its own operation, it saves time, she said.
To that end, fleets need to share performance metrics with their service providers “to drive greater focus on accountability,” Gingrich said. She used the example of fleets sharing daily low score reports on roadside callouts, explaining that having that data allows the service provider to evaluate performance at specific locations and take corrective action.
Communication needs to go beyond the day-to-day metrics. “Don’t be afraid to share your business goals and even operating, maintenance and repair expenses with your service provider. It is proven that for every $10 spent on preventive maintenance, it saves $100 down the road.” If your service provider understands your pain points, they can be in a better position to help you manage those expenses and even reduce costs.
Another element of communication that can speed the maintenance/repair process is sharing vehicle information, communication protocols, pre-authorization limits, parts preferences, and fleet-specific inspection and repair procedures.
Gingrich said it’s important to personalize relationships. Ask for a shop tour so you can meet the branch manager and the parts and service staff. “This puts faces with names, instantly strengthens relationships, and improves buy-in to the greater cause.” Employees are more engaged in excellent customer service if they personally know the customer.
You also should review the partnership with your outside service providers once a year. Key fleet personnel should sit down with key people at the service provider “to share the good, the bad and the ugly from the previous year,” she said. Talk about how problems were addressed and what can be done — by both sides — to improve the relationship and the maintenance and repair process going forward. The review is a good time for the fleet to share any new goals or strategies, as well.
Gingrich also said fleets can help themselves reduce repair costs by establishing incentives for drivers and holding them accountable for inspecting, maintaining and repairing their vehicles.
“With extended maintenance intervals of today, there is a great gap of time where a mechanic has his/her eyes and hands on the equipment to identify faults. When a driver is incented and/or rewarded for inspecting and finding and repairing problems, it greatly reduces downtime.”
Gingrich believes that “relationships and communication can overcome almost any obstacle.” She added, “If you set your service partner up to truly be an extension of your business, you will save time in the end. It is a lot of up front work and takes a lot of trust to share information, but in the end, it saves time and money.”
This article appeared in the March 2021 issue of HDT in our Aftermarket Insight department.