NAPA, CA. The relationship truck dealers have with their customers, their truck manufacturer and even with one another are in the midst of a radical restructuring intended to vastly improve service and total cost of ownership for fleets and other users, according to a panel of dealers speaking at a Daimler Trucks North America press event.
OEM and dealer collaboration in both the design of new service products and programs, as well as in the execution is “clearly making a major change [for our customers] in the ease of doing business with us,” said Rick Reynolds, president and principal of Peach State Truck Centers, as well as chairman of the Freightliner Dealer Council.
For an example he pointed to DTNA’s Express Assessment program, which promises fleets the critical information needed to make business decisions surrounding an equipment problem within two hours. It was only made possible by combining the company’s remote diagnostics system with changes in a dealership’s business processes, he pointed out.
Even simple things like eliminating shop clutter and bringing consistency to how customers are treated when they enter any shop are products of extending OEM continuous improvement processes from manufacturing to dealerships, said Scott Pharr, president of Piedmont Truck Center and chairman of the Western Star Dealer Council.
“If you back up tens years ago when I first became involved in the dealer council, it was very much an us vs. them mentality,” said Brad Fauvre, president of Velocity Vehicle Group and former chair of the Freightliner dealer body.
“Over the last ten years as trust has been developed between the management team and the dealer body, it really has become an collaborative process where we’re able now to benefit from DTNA’s experience as a large manufacturer with the continuous improvement program they’ve perfected and apply it to the service process.”
Codified as a set of criteria dealers need to meet to be certified as part of DTNA’s Elite Support network, the result has been changes in service that bring major benefits to fleets, he said. For example average downtime for trucks in one of Velocity’s largest shops went from 4.5 days to below three days within one year of changing the shop’s operations to meet those criteria, according to Fauvre,
The criteria cover items big and small, according to Catherine Auckland, dir. of aftermarket marketing for DTNA. They range from hours of operation and customer parking to parts management and express assessment of repair time and cost, she said.
“Customers are noticing,” Fauvre said. “Speed of throughput [in the shop] is a huge factor because a down truck costs a fleet on average $1,000 a day in lost revenue.”
Representing the fleet perspective on the panel, Ray Hufnagel, president of the bulk and contract fleet Plastic Express, said: “We’ve certainly noticed the differences. A clean, organized shop means something to me. And the fact that we have less downtime is huge to us. A day lost to revenue is revenue we’ll never recover. Having a dealer partner that understands and fully supports our business on this level helps us to be successful.”
“Our dealers and distributors are on the frontline, and we need to arm them with the best tools, systems and resources to deliver a great customer experience,” said Friedrich Bauman, DTNA sr. VP, aftermarket. “This is how we are jointly creating a long-term business partnership with our customers.”