I believe the key to successfully integrating fleet business into retail business is knowing the difference behind each customer's motivation. I have seen far too many shops try to do both with disastrous results, because they think one size fits all, and that is just not the case. So, when it comes to fleet managers and retail customers, what are the main differences?
- Mr. Smith finds quality very important because his family rides in this car. When his wife and children are out late for soccer practice, he does not want to have to worry about them breaking down.
- Smith Electrical also finds quality to be very important, but for different reasons. A breakdown in the middle of the day because something was not correctly repaired, or an inferior part was used is catastrophic to his operation. Now he has to stop what he's doing, get a rental or loaner out to his technician, move tools around, find a tow truck, call the customer to explain that they are running behind, and then reschedule the rest of his day.
- Lesson learned – while price is an important factor with any fleet manager, you have to find the right balance between that and high quality. It also goes without saying that you HAVE to hire the best technicians so the work is done right the first time.
- Mrs. Smith looks at proper service as prolonging the life and increasing the value of her car.
- Smith Heating and Air occupants it an expense that may or may not be necessary. Some fleet managers want the least possible amount of work done. Some want the vehicle to be in top shape at all times. Most are a mixture of both things.
- Lesson learned – ASK the customer how he wants the trucks taken care of and then do it.
- Mr. Smith wants his car back today so he can go home.
- Smith Plumbing wants their van back right now so they can service their customers. A fleet vehicle is a tool, used to carry out whatever type of business you're in. It could be a lot of different professions, from plumbing to sales. Whatever the purpose, that company depends on that vehicle to do their job.
- Lesson learned – sometimes you got to stay late to get the job done, so they can get the truck loaded and on the road first thing the next morning.
- Mrs. Smith needs to know when her car is going to be ready so she can catch a ride to pick it up.
- Smith Moving needs to know when his box truck is going to be ready so he can make a decision about renting a replacement truck or not.
- Lesson learned – communicate with your customer at the earliest possible time so that you do not paint them into a corner at the end of the day. While communication is equally important for both customers, the ramifications can be far greater for the fleet manager.
While it is very true that all customers deserve your very best service, knowing the difference behind each customer's motivation is critical to your success. Without understanding how your customer thinks, you simply can not help them make a decision that is in their best interest, which, in the end, is our real job anyways.