The average vehicle age in North American fleets remains high, so demand for new vehicles and parts and services is increasing, according to James Chenier, vice president-aftermarket, Volvo Trucks in North America. He says that component longevity has increased over the years, providing a high level of value, however, the high fleet age means more services are coming due.
Fleet customers have ramped up their pursuit of end-to-end solutions, and they’re focusing on the intended outcome: uptime. In the past, the approach could have been fragmented, where a fleet’s maintenance department dealt with our service team and the fleet’s parts staff worked with our parts group. Vehicle uptime is becoming a much more holistic effort.
The desire is to help with uptime and that involves enterprise-level thinking, starting with the relationship, encompassing the truck and everything necessary to ensure maximum uptime. “This means our team and our dealers’ teams must be able to talk about many different facets, from the features of the truck to telematics, parts, service and much more”, he said.
To stay ahead of the truck operators’ parts and service needs, an astute OEM must continually measure its success. “We know that the key is customer satisfaction, backed by the level of return customers who purchase new vehicles and their parts spend. What the fleets tell us in our day-to-day interactions is important, of course, but there’s also a lot of data being paired with the anecdotal feedback to help drive customer satisfaction.
“We’ve recently begun administering customer satisfaction surveys online through our online service platform ASIST, to provide immediate feedback. Receiving feedback in a multitude of ways drives continuous improvement, always with an eye on the customer. We’re always finding more ways to keep score, and it boils down to asking the customer,” he noted.
According to Chenier, independent repair facilities could be viewed as competitors, yet they’re also some of the OEM’s very good parts customers. “We have an OEM channel, dealer channel and an independent channel, which provides needed capacity in the marketplace. We’re focused on earning customers’ service business by providing value to their operations, and that value comes from delivering what the customer wants: keeping their trucks up and running.
“We have and will continue to develop a differentiated approach to truck service through things like increasing the number of Volvo factory-trained master technicians, delivering on the company’s ten-point service commitment, proactive diagnostics and service planning through Remote Diagnostics, online service quoting and communication with ASIST and menu-priced repairs at our authorized dealers.
Chenier offered other perspectives on parts and service:
- The shortage of technicians will continue to be a challenge for the industry, so service providers that recruit and retain the best technicians will have a significant advantage.
- Volvo has a number of initiatives on the horizon: “leveraging its Remote Diagnostics connected vehicle platform to help customers improve and manage their uptime and we look to continue expanding our connected vehicle capabilities.”
- Big data: worked with its dealers on managing data, “not only the vehicle data that we provide, but also working with them with their business processes and systems.”
- Working on enhancements to Select, the company’s online parts ordering web application, “so customers have real-time 24/7 visibility to local dealer inventory and pricing.”
- Our parts and service end of the business must contribute to driving efficiency, and “We’re focused on taking big steps to further help our customers.”
Among the biggest changes, offers Volvo’s Chenier, is the rapidly growing acceptance of technology in all aspects of the business. “Not only are customers tracking assets with technology, but also they’re putting in place business systems to manage uptime, maintenance intervals and maintenance spend. They’re also communicating with their service providers electronically.
“The transportation sector is growing rapidly in the adoption of very high-tech solutions and it’s exciting to see,” concluded Chenier.
Ongoing expansions and renovations at the more than 350 Volvo Trucks dealer locations in North America continue to help maximize vehicle uptime. Since 2010, dealer investments of more than $380 million have led to a 54% increase in technicians, including more than a 162% increase in Volvo master technicians. Now, more than 25% of Volvo technicians are certified master technicians. Service bay capacity has increased 35%, while parts inventory has increased 69% and the number of parts department employees has increased 68%.
In addition, Volvo Trucks supports its North American dealers through Volvo Trucks Academy, which provides more than 250 online and instructor-led courses for dealer sales, parts, service and technician professionals. Customers can also access the expert OEM training for the latest information on topics like Volvo engines, emissions controls, fuel-saving innovations and driving tips.
To help dealers address the industry-wide shortage of heavy-duty truck technicians, Volvo Trucks Academy has partnered with WyoTech to provide technician training programs tailored specifically to the chassis, powertrain, emissions systems, electronic and electrical systems of Volvo trucks. The Diesel Advanced Technology Education program trains advanced Volvo technician apprentices who graduate ready for placement within the Volvo dealer network and on a path to becoming Volvo master technicians.