By Christopher Lyon, NTEA Director of Fleet Relations
Meet our experts
This article was published in the August 2020 edition of NTEA News.
These days, we are all feeling a little invisible. There are new regulations, procedures and methods of communication — all of which seem to be adjusted by the day. With this added layer of noise and confusion, it’s critical to stay visible. Manufacturers, upfitters, suppliers and distributors play a key role in the commercial truck fleet community — your customers likely would not be able to make informed decisions without these relationships.
How do fleets rate and relate to your business? Creating an internal scorecard allows you to identify missed opportunities as well as process improvements. It’s important to make this a true exercise, since it’s internal, where you really push the envelope. Companies should be open to constructive criticism, and becoming aware of the need for change is one of the first steps to improvement. Helping ensure your business remains a trusted resource to customers is a good way to stay visible.
While in-person conversations are more limited right now, clear communication must continue, no matter the climate. Remember, your customers are also in uncharted territory, so learning their current needs and issues, and crafting a pathway to a solution, will have a positive impact. Many organizations have shifted communications to virtual platforms, but it’s important to find the best method for each individual business. This can be challenging, so ask questions on how they want to (or can) receive messages. How are their staff interacting? On the procurement side, with complex trucks, several individuals may be involved in vehicle design. Normally, they would reside in the same office and look at the drawing board together. This may not be the case now, so it’s crucial to understand their internal structure and make sure communications continue to reach all stakeholders.
Make a U-turn
There are always economic ups and downs. During dips, budgets shrink and orders slow. Some fleet professionals feel if they are not buying, many suppliers go quiet — which can discourage customer loyalty. Instead of going dark, become more present. If customers aren’t in a position to purchase, they are often looking at their needs, so this is an excellent opportunity to become an educator. Fleet trucks and equipment are still rolling, and organizations may be considering vehicle suitability to need. If you can offer knowledge on a more efficient method or solution, you’re providing a service that often translates to best value when customers are ready to purchase again.
While face-to-face interaction has been a prevalent training method, going virtual presents opportunities. For instance, getting municipal-sector travel approval for education can be challenging. Virtual events enable attendees to get the same amount of valuable information without leaving their home or office.
NTEA’s Truck Product Conference, scheduled Sept. 22–24, is going virtual for 2020. Whether you’re an upfitter, distributor, supplier or manufacturer, encourage fleet customers to consider attending. This event offers key insights on the commercial vehicle community, including product upgrades and launches, chassis manufacturer positions on technical issues, and potential upfitting challenges and solutions. Each session will conclude with live Q&A with OEM exhibitors. The more knowledge your customers gain, the more possibilities you have to serve them. Learn more and register at ntea.com/truckproductconference.
For more fleet information, visit ntea.com/fleetresources.