Industry Panel: Niche service important to break into fleet maintenance programs

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Aside from providing intricate product knowledge and high-quality service, shops looking to crack into a fleet’s maintenance program are going to have to stand out.

Darry Stuart, of DWS Fleet Management Services, led an industry panel Monday morning as part of Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW), giving shops on the recruiting trail insight on how fleet owners see farming out maintenance services.

“Fleets are looking for something that is unique; something that fits into their world,” he says.
Paul Higgins, Director of Maintenance for Prime, Inc., says his company does 80 percent of all maintenance in house, generally only allowing oil changes and preventive maintenance work done over the road.

But Tom Kottenko, with Snap-on Nexiq, says that’s not the case industry-wide, citing a growing number of fleets who are farming out at least portions of their maintenance.

Carving out a service niche for many shops will mean thinking outside the box, Stuart says, and in some cases taking that box to their target customers.

“Onsite (air conditioning) work is a big deal,” he says. “Very attractive as a fleet owner.”
Aside from taking your business to the customer, Stuart says there are plenty of good opportunities left outside the box if you time them right.

“(Maintenance providers) are always nervous about the warranty side of the business,” he says, citing a growing indifference toward extended warranties on new trucks that presents an opportunity for maintenance providers aggressive enough to seek it.

“I just bought 230 new trucks and I didn’t buy the first extended warranty,” he says. “With extended warranties, you’re really just buying insurance.”

Opportunities for for service contracts, Stuart says, come in years three through six when warranties expire.

As far as what fleet owners looks for in a maintenance provider, Stuart provides some no-nonsense insight.

“We want quick diagnostics and quick repairs,” he says. “We want accurate customer contact, quick ‘Q’ for customer repairs and no change of delay.”

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