Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini

Fleets grumble a fair amount about truck dealers. They complain about wait times and poor communication, among other things. While it may feel like dealers are ignoring fleets’ concerns, based on interviews with the American Truck Dealers/Heavy Duty Trucking/Procede Truck Dealer of the Year nominees, dealers not only hear what fleets are saying, but also are trying to do something about it.

Here is a sampling of some of the ways dealers are trying to improve their service to fleets.

“We went through a lean initiative at all our locations,” says James Carello, president and dealer principal, Regional International Corp., Henrietta, New York. “We looked at how we wrote trucks up, how we communicated with customers, how we were using technology, and we streamlined our operation.”

In addition, Carello has a policy of never walking away from a customer. “If a customer buys a truck from me, and he has got a problem, I am going to do things to support him in every way.” He says this is true even if the problem is not the result of something his dealership did.

In order to bring service closer to his customers, Carello has also added five subcontractors who are trained and authorized to sell parts and perform service, including warranty work. His goal is to have customers no more than 35 miles away from one of his service facilities.

Kathryn “Katie” Hopkins, executive vice president and dealer principal, Truck Centers Inc., Troy, Illinois, says her dealerships now produce work flow reports that track repairs so the TCI team can see what’s going on during the entire repair process. The headquarters location also offers service 24 hours a day/7 days a week. And to ensure parts availability, TCI provides parts and service at several of its customers’ locations. This helps expedite getting parts from one location to another. “At Truck Centers we are really driven in our culture to provide superior customer service. Uptime is a key driving force.”

Getting customers to bring their trucks in at the first sign of a problem is the goal of Gary Nicholas, president and CEO, Nicholas-Wyoming Valley Truck Sales Inc., Luzerne, Pennsylvania. “We want to help them stay on the road making money.”

High-quality people with a high level of industry knowledge placed in the correct position is the way Robert Nuss, president, Nuss Truck Group, Rochester, Minnesota, says his dealerships best serve customers.

Nuss is also a proponent of proactive maintenance. “We don’t want breakdowns along the road for our customers. We want to teach them how to recognize potential problems with their trucks.” He says it is the job of the dealership’s customer service managers “to teach our customers how to understand their trucks.” In addition, the Nuss website allows customers to order parts even if they don’t have the complete part number.

Zach Wagner, chief operating officer at Gateway Truck & Refrigeration, Collinsville, Illinois, says his dealership recognizes the fact that the $500 or $600 repair cost is not the most expensive part of the repair.

“The loss of revenue from missed schedules or the driver timing out of hours of service is more costly to a fleet.” He says truck technicians at his dealership use the sense of urgency they learned by working side by side with Gateway refrigeration technicians, who understand that with a refrigerated load, “if the unit is not running you have a problem on your hands a lot quicker, and fixing it requires a nimble attitude.”