Are you breaking the Golden Rule?

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There’s no place like home, and at no time is that more obvious than being broken down on the side of the road with a customer waiting on you.

Fleet owners and managers, addressing media and Volvo executives during a press event Thursday, cited several key decisions in where and how they choose a maintenance provider.

There were the obvious reasons: downtime and on-hand parts supply. And then there was the less obvious: relationships.

“No one is looking for our interest when we’re at a dealership and they’re not used to seeing us,” Kirk Rutherford, Manager of Private Fleet, Maintenance & Equipment at Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, said.

Rutherford said many dealership shops seem to offer preferential and expedited services to owners and operators who have patronized their business with more frequency.

“That doesn’t do much for the one-off guy who’s stranded and broken down,” he said.

Rutherford, whose fleet is based in Nashville, Tenn., said he’s hauled broken down trucks across the country to get them back to a local shop where he’s experienced the customer service he needs.

“It doesn’t matter where it is in the U.S., the truck is coming here,” he said of Mike and Joe Nacarato’s Volvo dealership in Nashville.

“That’s not our philosophy,” Nacarato President Mike Nacarato said of offering preferential treatment to locals. “When (drivers) come here for service, they get service.”

It’s not that the Nacaroto’s local businesses don’t get preferential treatment, it’s that the out-of-town guys get treated like the company’s local regulars.

“We bust our tails for everybody that we can,” Nacarato vice president Joe Nacarato said citing an instance over the Thanksgiving holiday where one of his parts managers made a decision from the hip to give a hauler a replacement part off a new truck versus ordering one to get the hauler home for holiday dinner.

“I thought, ‘Well, should I be mad that he gave the part away or should I be proud of what he did to get the guy home for Thanksgiving,” he said. “I was proud. That’s customer service.”

“We were always taught that you’re going to do business with the people that you know and the people that you like,” Mike added, “and we try to keep that in mind.”

Aside from having built a relationship with local dealers, many fleet owners feel that a one-off repair could be met with price gouging repair principles.

The Nacarato’s dealership uses Volvo’s MVASIST program, which streamlines the diagnostic and work authorization process. But it also helps with cost expectations by ensuring they are relatively consistent within the dealer network.

It’s natural to give “special” treatment to your largest customers, but such parity on the second level of customer service for more infrequent patrons could come back to haunt you.

“There’s places out there that I just know I can’t go,” said Pete Carpenter, owner of Nashville-based PACTrucking. “It just takes too long, they don’t have the parts or whatever, and they don’t know us.”

And while Rutherford said he enjoys the relationship he has locally, he’d like to experience at least a similar level of customer service nationwide for equipment problems that can’t make their way back to Tennessee.

“We need support across the U.S., that says, ‘here’s where you go,’” he said.

The next time you’re crunching your profitability numbers, take a look at the returns in your service department.

Could applying the ‘Golden Rule’ give a boost to your profitability?

I’m sure it could.

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