Editorial — Denise L. Rondini

Denise Untitled 1Keeping Your Edge

I recently got back from the American Truck Dealer’s convention where most everyone was feeling hopeful about this year. Orders for vehicles are coming in slowly, but at least they are coming in.

Parts departments seem busy although some dealers are starting to see fill rates from suppliers drop a bit and a few have even experienced some parts shortages.

Service bays are filling up and customers are demanding more from their service providers, especially quicker diagnosis of vehicle problems.

The independent aftermarket always has done a good job of taking care of its service customers even picking up work because dealer shops were too full and a fleet did not want to wait a week to have a truck looked at — let alone repaired.

That was an advantage for independents; they could get trucks in more quickly than dealers. But things have changed. Most truck manufacturers recognized the need for their dealers to be able to respond, at least with an initial assessment of what the problem was, in a relatively short time frame.

What resulted was the development of programs that fall under the umbrella of Rapid Repair Assessment. While each manufacturer’s program has a unique name and certain things that are particular to its program, they all work off the same premise. Get the customer’s truck in a bay and diagnose the problem within two hours, locate the necessary parts and determine the cost of the repair. At the end of that period the dealer gives the customer an initial diagnosis as well as an indication of how long the repair will take, when it can be started and an accurate cost estimate.

Dealers are responding to the demands of customers and are changing their business models to become more nimble.

This has removed the old scenario of a fleet’s truck sitting in the dealer’s lot for days only to find that the repair is quick and easy when the truck is brought into the bay.

Kenneth Calhoun, vice president of customer relations at Truck Centers of Arkansas and chairman of the Technology & Maintenance Council’s Service Providers Committee, explains fleets want quick notification of the vehicle’s problem in order to make decisions on what to do with the cargo on a disabled truck.

Knowing within a short time span how long the repair is going to take makes it easier for the fleet manager to make decisions on how to get the load where it needs to be.

More and more dealers — either by choice or at the insistence of their OEMs — are setting aside at least one bay to be used to rapidly diagnose customers’ trucks. They are responding to the demands of customers and are changing their business models to become more nimble.

As this trend grows what once was a competitive advantage is quickly becoming business as usual, and those service providers who are not on the rapid repair bandwagon run the risk of being left behind.

In light of this new move by dealers, the questions becomes what are independent service providers going to do to regain their edge? My guess is the savvy ones already have something in the works.

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