Help yourself by helping your vendor

Over the last several months, discussions with members has often led to the topic of vendors – specifically, what makes a vendor great as opposed to what makes a vendor hit the least-preferred list. The mantra “The customer is always right” primarily holds true because buyers have the money, and thus the power.

On the other hand, what do your vendors think of your operation? Yes, vendors exist because buyers need products and services and are willing to pay for them, but how do you rate as a customer? We’ve discussed in the past that good customer service is key to a successful business transaction; however, have you taken a step back and rated yourself as a customer?

Become a better fleet customer
Have you bought a new work truck that was almost but not exactly what you expected? You most likely spent hours developing a detailed specification or explained your needs in great detail. The first logical thought is that the vendor messed up – because the customer is always right. The disconnect may be that most end users assume that their truck, body and equipment suppliers understand all that is important to their customers.

Truck, body and equipment suppliers may have the same assumption. Unfortunately, there often is a major discrepancy between your expectations and how your suppliers and upfitters understand your expectations. This is where it becomes a key strategy to become a better fleet customer.

Pre- and post-sale communications are crucial and leave the assumptions at the door. Over the past several years, NTEA has commissioned a number of surveys, both on the supplier side and the end user side. The results suggest many equipment dealers believe bottom line price is one of the most important considerations to their fleet customers. On the other side, end user fleets who participated in these surveys suggested that value for the dollar spent is much more important in overall price.

Take the time to communicate with your suppliers on what is important to you and your organization. If there is a communication gap regarding your expectations and what your suppliers think your expectations are, you will continue to receive equipment that is almost what you expected.

Preferred customers
End users often have lists of preferred vendors that they are comfortable going to for repeat business. However are you a preferred customer? It can only be speculated that vendors and suppliers have preferred customers, for which much of the criteria is the same.

Are you providing clear and concise communications? Are you part of the solution when equipment does not come in exactly as expected? If you can answer yes to these questions, you are on the path to becoming a preferred customer. This position should not be taken for granted. Often suppliers and vendors will advocate for their preferred customers, and go the extra mile above good customer service.

To conclude, we as fleet users often demand superior services; however, understanding what and how to be a better customer can bridge many gaps and turn assumptions into understanding – resulting in positive business relationships for all parties involved.

To discuss this or any other fleet issue with the NTEA, contact me at