Do you have a customer service plan?

Published in the June 2018 issue of Fleet Affiliation

As a fleet manager, do you view fleet equipment users as employees or customers? Although these users are employees under the organization’s umbrella, ideally you should be viewing them as your customers who have expectations of receiving high-quality service. Providing superior service will often result in bottom line savings. An important question to ask yourself — do you have a beneficial working relationship with your customers? Some fleet managers view their users strictly as employees. If this is the case, there may be missed opportunities. Actively establishing good relationship as and viewing employees as customers has the potential to bring down maintenance costs, reduce instances of equipment misuse and abuse, and lower new equipment costs.

Taking the first step
The first step in transitioning a relationship from employee to customer is to foster two-way communication. Employees often have hands-on knowledge on how equipment is used in the field. Take advantage of this information. Once this open communication is established, you are on the path to providing excellent customer service. The second step is to identify your customers’ expectations. Although this may appear to be fairly basic, it is not as natural as you may think. People generally interpret situations according to their unique perspective, and usually to their own advantage. It may be beneficial to have a written plan of expectations.

Defining customer expectations
There are several important criteria used to define expectations. One is having clear product and service descriptions. Much like relationships with suppliers and upfitters, as a fleet you have a product (the vehicle) and provide a service such as maintenance.  Streamlining these elements can greatly impact your reputation for customer service. Providing effective two-way communication creates the tools necessary to move toward improved shop operations. This includes understanding how your customers use equipment and finding out how equipment is actually used as compared to its designed use. With the right information, you will be able to provide more efficient equipment in the future.

Customer service killers
In any business, there are customer service killers — and these can increase your bottom line costs. There are several areas you can focus on as a fleet provider. Customer service killers can include excessive lead-times for replacement equipment, failure to meet a delivery date (e.g., repairs not completed on time), product and service quality issues (e.g., reworks), excessive downtime, and poor product support. As a fleet manager, you may not have direct control over some of these aspects, but taking some extra time to work with suppliers and vendors can improve and eliminate many of these issues. Your suppliers and vendors have you as a customer, and they are in a position to understand the importance of customer service. Educating them about your internal customers, who require the same level of service, can prove to be beneficial.

If you would like to discuss this, or any other fleet issue with the NTEA contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations, at