I haven’t been writing as much lately, for a number of reasons; sold our condo, doing a major house Reno, got a new pup, recorded a full length CD and busier than crap at work. Anyway, I thought I should send one more out for 2012.
It was a good year for us and the industry too. Caution is still King but not as many complaints around…everyone has made the adjustments needed to cope with what seems to be “the new economy”.
The driver crisis hasn’t brought the industry to a standstill yet and somehow the folks at the helm of the various trucking operations will find their way through it. It’s a tough business but one that I have enjoyed supporting, in my small way, for what seems like a lifetime… 2013 is our 25th year!
There was a record turnout at the recent Toronto Transportation Club dinner and Don Cherry was certainly a factor in the increased attendance. Sports and transportation have always seemed to go hand in hand…a guy thing I guess. Still, more and more ladies are making their mark on the industry and they were well represented at the event.
We added a person in Montreal and it appears to be a tough market to crack for an English company, even though our guy there is French. I’ve spoken with some English carrier customers and they have found it equally difficult. We’re still working on that one. The reverse scenario appears to be true for our Quebec customers breaking ground in Ontario. If anyone has some tips on that one, they would gratefully be received by all.
We added an account manager in Toronto too, which has been a great help. We had continued to run a bit too lean coming out of the recession. We’ve seen many of our carrier customers start to add bodies as well…a good sign I hope.
We’re adding a young gal in the New Year to help with social media. As mentioned when I spoke at the recent Transportation Summit, Canadian transportation has some catching up to do in this area and we are gearing up to help further with this in 2013.
When I looked over our account list for 2012, I saw many loyal customers that have been with us for decades and something new…a high number of good size accounts that came as a result of our web marketing. The web in 2012 was good news for smaller companies. A shift is occurring, with more and more buyers sourcing on the web. Resource to resource, a 1 million dollar company can get as many opportunities from web marketing as a 200 million dollar company… if they are willing and able to create the same amount of content and use proper search engine optimization.
I’m still amazed when people today, running great companies, don’t put much stock in the power of the web to build their business, help with recruiting, or simply make a favourable impression on customers, suppliers and their carrier partner network. More than ever, it’s not “a” or “b” when it comes to choosing the best way to market, it’s “a, b, c, & d”. That will be our core message for the upcoming year. Add to your relationships and referral business, with the new techniques available…add to, not replace!
Best of the holidays to everyone and we’ll see you in the New Year.
Lee’s quote for the day
The first sign that a company is struggling with service issues is when you see a survey from them entitled “How’s our service?” At least that was my recent experience with a prominent Mississauga dealership.
I trade cars a lot and I’ve always been partial to sport cars and European styling. Now that my young family and mini-van days are behind me, I’ve spoiled myself over the last few years and currently own a BMW hardtop convertible. I tend to buy used and off season, so that I can experiment without taking too big a hit on depreciation.
Anyway, with this car you just need to change the oil once a year, although I’m not sure why. I put it in for that annual service recently and they said I was also due for their 100 point check. I asked the cost and at a $133, I said go ahead. Other than a service last year, I haven’t put a dime in the car since I bought it last February, so I expected they would find something. I was surprised when it got a clean bill of health.
I bought the car last year from a dealer in Hamilton. It was a big price advantage to buy a BMW at a Toyota dealer, as they don’t know the car and typically move them at a better price. As a matter of fact, when they showed me the car they didn’t know how to start it or operate the roof. The initial service was a precautionary measure and I was charged just under $150 at the Mississauga dealership in question.
Fast forward to present day. I went in to pick up my car and in addition to the $133 they quoted for the 100 point check, the same oil change was $200 this time. I politely asked why it was different. The service gal had no answer. I asked “if it wasn’t too much bother to bring up the bill from last time, I would like to see if my memory was correct”. It was but instead of acknowledging a possible error she proceeded to say that last time was less expensive because it was a low mileage oil service. When I asked the difference between a low mileage service and a high mileage service she nervously directed me to who she introduced as the service manager at a nearby desk.
I got a similar skating exercise with the person I was directed to and decided to leave it be. When I got back to the office I had an e-mail asking me to complete a customer satisfaction survey from the same dealership. I couldn’t resist. After a couple of emails with more awkward stick handling on their end, the chap stated, “I’m a service advisor not a service manager, I have no power to address your complaint and I just want you to respond to how I performed as a service advisor.”
I sent back a quick note saying that he was certainly very nice and asked him for the service manager’s name and a breakout of how the 100 point check was uniquely different than the oil service check and why the charge was significantly higher than last time. I haven’t heard from the dealer since, except for another request to fill out their survey.
My long winded story has a point. We started developing marketing for a growing transportation provider recently. As a part of their growing pains, they have discovered some cracks in their customer service such that they were immediately losing several new customers that sales had brought on.
As long as I have been serving the transportation industry, this has been the main sore point between operations and sales. It continues today, to the point that the some senior sales people I know tend to babysit their new accounts through the initial start up phase to keep a screw up from happening. From an operations standpoint, the feeling may be that the sales person has over promised what can be done as part of their standard process, from a sales perspective, the sales person promises what they need to, to win the day…so the historic feud continues.
We all know that how you handle a complaint is critical to maintaining a customer relationship. I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes over the years that have cost me business. It took me a while to learn that it’s never about being right or wrong. It’s all about communicating that you care what your customer thinks and showing that concern in person where possible. E-mail is great for documenting but may be the worst way to resolve a service complaint.
At the end of the day, the BMW service advisor was more concerned about how he looked in the survey than resolving my concerns or protecting the reputation of the dealership. They have a service process in place but have missed some critical steps along the way.
The transportation company I mentioned thinks better communication and training is the answer to improved customer service. It’s certainly a big part of it. Getting across the point that real success is a team effort, not how successfully you divert blows as an individual or point fingers as a manager… now that’s the ticket!
Lee’s quote for the day
“I have a tendency towards getting defensive and taking things personal when I feel the quality of my work or ethics are being questioned. It’s a hard habit to break but I know it’s the wrong approach and something I need to keep working on. I might install a reset switch when brain surgery becomes more affordable.”