Stay connected with your customers during distant times

By Christopher Lyon, NTEA Director of Fleet Relations
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This article was published in the June 2020 edition of NTEA News.

During this unprecedented time, traditional business models across the global work truck industry have been turned upside down — and it may be a while before we return to normal. In the meantime, though, work is still being done. Commercial vehicles are hitting the streets for everything from utilities to construction to deliveries — and effective communication remains a critical component to accomplishing these tasks.

Given current operating conditions of many fleets, it’s more important than ever to know and understand customer needs. Their operations have likely been affected and interrupted. Equipment usage and service requirements may have temporarily shifted. Without this knowledge, it’s more challenging to determine what resources customers need to help them best function in today’s unique environment.

Becoming invaluable
Fleets continue to reach out for support as they operate with fewer resources and rely on tighter tolerances to complete jobs. Becoming an invaluable resource during difficult times will not go unnoticed. However, doing so requires actionable results and returns. Solutions and promises look good on paper, but until tangible outcomes are achieved, they are as valuable as the sheet on which they’re printed.

One of the most important things to avoid is making promises you cannot keep. Take a moment, step back and ask yourself if you’ve ever over-promised but ultimately under-delivered. It’s most likely happened to everyone at some point in time — often due to circumstances beyond your control. For example, a promise was made to deliver a unit with a set number of days, but a delayed component from a third-party supplier caused you to miss this commitment. While this situation may not result in a lost customer, it’s imperative to understand what you’re promising.

To under-promise and over-deliver is at the opposite end of the spectrum. This may garner a short-term win, but could also result in lost opportunities regarding your company’s capabilities and capacities. Making a deliverable and realistic commitment is key. Communicating the reality of barriers you’re facing while providing a practical solution to customers sets the stage for success. Meeting expectations is one of the single most important factors in maintaining long-term business relationships.

Working as a team
Suppliers, upfitter and other service providers may be well positioned to provide informational resources to fleets and advocate for solutions. Knowing your customers’ current needs is critical. Letting them know what’s available and providing deliverable timelines can help fleets make informed decisions to keep their trucks on the road. Maintain clear, regular communication and, when possible, offer sourcing ideas and alternative solutions. Staying engaged, understanding challenges of both the supply and user side, and continuing open and visible dialogue can be vital tools in navigating the current business climate.

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