As a business grows, so does its fleet of customer service vehicles. With proper care and management, these vehicles can better serve customers while increasing the company’s name recognition and reputation.
Vehicles allow companies to ensure quality control from the time of a sale to delivery, installation and beyond, according to Shawn Maynard, owner of Bullfrog Spas of Northern Utah in Ogden, Utah.
“Providing our own delivery and service allows us to finish the delivery all the way,” Maynard says. “I think that it’s a shame to do a really good job 90% of the way and then have the last percent, where the spa gets delivered and handed to the customer, be a bad experience. It’s important that we hold onto that and make the experience what we hope it will be.”
To represent a company well, vehicles must be properly maintained. Rick Spect, owner of Pool to Spa Services in Wenatchee, Washington, says clean, stocked and organized vehicles are key to helping technicians provide the best service. Pool to Spa Services recently switched from vans to trucks with canopies and separate storage boxes for safer and more efficient storage of chemicals, electronics and other supplies.
The vehicle is the main tool that a technician has.”Rick Spect, Pool to Spa Services
“The vehicle is the main tool that a technician has,” Spect says. “We have been adamant about clean, well-presented and well-stocked vehicles, and that is for the good of our customers, of course, and for our technicians.”
Kelly King, owner of Mountain Hot Tub in Bozeman, Montana, says the type of vehicle affects the efficiency of service, too. Previously, Mountain Hot Tub had trouble ordering spa covers. These covers could not be delivered quickly and would come by truckloads when they did arrive. To help get the covers to customer homes faster, the company purchased a box truck with an enclosed cargo area large enough to hold several at once.
Mountain Hot Tub also maintains a small fleet of Jeep Renegades that are used solely for regular valet water care routes, keeping service and delivery routes separate.
“Not only are they great in the snow, but they are too small to haul a spa cover,” King says. “So our valet techs never get side-tracked with things like cover replacements because they need to focus on their route every day. We did that on purpose to make sure our valet program runs as smoothly as possible.”
Beyond providing service, vehicles are an important way to display legitimacy to technicians and advertise a company.
“That the vehicle is clean and in good repair and properly signed gives the people pulling up to a house credibility,” Maynard says.
Highly visible company vehicles are a “show of force,” King says. Whether the vehicles are servicing customers or just riding in a local parade, professionally wrapped vehicles make the company well-known in the community.
“We’ve totally moved to full-size wraps on these vehicles, and they’ve always been excellent advertising for us,” Spect says. “People make the comment that they just see us everywhere. It’s paying for itself.”
When Mountain Hot Tub purchased its box truck, King invited employees to participate in the branding process with a wrap design contest. The winning design featured three animals commonly found in nearby Yellowstone National Park enjoying a soak in a hot tub.
“It’s a lot of fun to let our staff show off their creativity and have buy-in helping to create our brand,” King says.
In the past, businesses may have used physical notebooks to track fuel, maintenance and other details for a small inventory of vehicles. Today, many use computer spreadsheets. However, as the number of vehicles grows, upgrading your management system to more sophisticated software and technologies can save time and money.
With around 20 company vehicles, Maynard says Bullfrog Spas of Northern Utah is on the cusp of an upgrade. Currently, his company relies on spreadsheets to keep up with inspection dates and other maintenance. His drivers are responsible for knowing their vehicle’s oil change schedule. Additionally, Maynard’s delivery manager checks all the vehicles monthly to ensure they are properly maintained.
Maynard is researching telematics, which is technology integrated into each vehicle that provides onboard diagnostic reports. These systems can track location, speed, mileage and fuel consumption as well as send maintenance alerts. Maynard has a basic telematics system on every vehicle, but he is looking for one with more robust reporting.
Mountain Hot Tub has one employee dedicated to vehicle management, including handling regular maintenance, like oil changes as well as insurance and repairs.
There are several costs associated with owning and maintaining a fleet of vehicles, some of which could be significant. Maynard says his company considers the cost of the vehicle, insurance, maintenance and replacement.
These costs are even more complicated when a vehicle requires special equipment. For example, Mountain Hot Tub vehicles receive a full set of new tires twice a year — winter tires to drive in snowy conditions and summer tires for the other seasons.
“Think about changing out four tires twice a year on 35 trucks and Jeeps,” King says. “It’s a lot to manage; but without doing that, we wouldn’t be safe. We wouldn’t be efficient. It’s a cost we have to incur that most dealers don’t, so when customers point out that some of our products cost more, we have to point out that stuff.”
King tries to mitigate the rising costs of insurance, maintenance and repairs on company vehicles by stressing safety to all employees. The company obtains a motor vehicle report for each employee before hire to confirm a safe driving record, and it conducts regular safety training for the employees. It also includes a tracking system on every vehicle that sends alerts when high speed, excessive braking or collisions are detected. These measures help minimize accidents and lower insurance rates.
Ensuring all vehicles have the right features and equipment is another important safety measure. For instance, Mountain Hot Tub can only use four-wheel drive vehicles because of the Montana winter conditions.
Maynard also sees value in equipping all vehicles with dash cameras — another feature he hopes to include in future upgrades.
“We’ve never been in an accident; but if we ever are, I’d love to have a camera record of it, and I would hope that it would prove that my people were driving slow and cautiously,” he says. “But should that not be the case, I’d want to know and train that behavior away.”