My e-mail and mail is a whole lot more interesting (grasshoppers anyone?) now that I am blogging, I must tell you. This week, I got an e-mail from a student in Serbia who is wondering how to use a trucking company's drivers to strengthen relations between the company and the customers.
Here's his e-mail. I promised him we'd help him out. His presentation is due in less than a week, so jump on it. Put on your thinking caps and share some ideas:
May I ask you to give me some advise
I am a student in marketing menadzment in Serbia, and I have a project to do with the next problem:
i need to use the trucks drivers to improve the brend of the company and relationship with customers. the company is one of the world famous in its industry, i cant tell its name, just for the start.The company producing(making) a constrution material, most important is cement, and its agregates and then delivers to the customers with their big trucks. the high managment doesnt spend a lot of time with the customers, like the drivers do, because of that, kompany wants to use that fact to impove relations, to use drivers , at one side to get informations directlu from people who buying its products, their suggestions, opinions…and at the other to show them that care about them, to show its brend standards, protect and improve the same, and make itself diferent from competion.The drivers have about 15-30 minutes until the cargo is unloaded to make an impression on customers. some usual things are next: they need to be clean and their trucks, to wear uniforms, to deliver the products on time…smile…
Any idea would be a great help for me who is gonig to be a future manager. i hope that we will cooperate in future, and that i will be able to help you, as this things like blogs and similar are just starting in my contry or in my enviorment. I am sorry about my english, but i am still learning. i am better in reading and uderstanding then writing, of course.
If you have any idea or friends whoworking on similar things, or you have adresse on someone who can help me please send me email.i have 1 week to finish the presentation.
Thank you for your time!
Milos B. sudent of final year of Faculty of Organizational Science, University of Belgrade
In response to the trucking company…
Each driver can leave a small item of value with a thank-you card with the customer asking for feedback.
Small items of value should be clever or useful to the people who will be directly receiving them. For example, someone unloading trucks could use a nice pair of gloves. Someone unloading trucks at night could use a mini-flashlight (With the company logo). Of course, everybody likes doughnuts and tickets to special events too.
The Thank-You card could have an e-mail address, or a webiste address where the customer can provide feedback or suggestions for improvment for the company.
First- great blog post! I love a good brianstorm.
As far as the truck drivers, I have a few ideas surrounding something I call the “wow factor.”
I learned about the Wow factor working as a Newport Beach, CA ocean lifeguard. It is something above and beyond the basics (product delivered on time, in fulle, not damaged, with a smile.) Ideas:
1. Truckers can tweet their whereabouts and funny things the see on their route. This brings character to the company (which management doesn’t seem to have) and lets the people they are delivering to know ahead of time when their shipment will arrive so they can prepare.
2. Deliver everything, and a goodie. When the trucker asks for a signature, the driver can pass them a candy/toy/whatever with the logo on it.
3. Dog treats. People really love their dogs.
4. The website can feature a trucker of the week. Everyone knows how much we love a good, ripped UPS driver. They have we-lift-heavy-things-all-day bodies without the bad connotation of construction workers. Make a calendar/feature the hottest ones on the website/hold an auction for charity and sell off “Dates with your Favorite Driver.” Bonus if the date includes pick-up and drop-off in the truck.
5. And give the truckers a raise for all this because they are clearly having to do managment’s job.
I agree with the previous comments. Truckers should always leave something behind with the customers. Thank you card, a hat or T-shirt with company logo, tickets to a sports game, gift card to a restaurant, or some other item related to the load being delivered.
Drivers should spend the unloading time in informal conversation with clients, asking for their feedback or experience with the product or delivery and then have management use the feedback to make improvements. When they see changes happen because of their feedback, customers will then feel their voice matters.
An extension of this could be a customer-of-the-week (or month) feature on your website. Drivers take photos of the happy customers, and then work with the marketing department to draft a short narrative of how and why the product/company made the customer happy and why the customer is the customer of the week. This would work as free promotion for the customer, motivation for reciprocity by the profiled customers, and maybe even prompt competition among customers to become customer of the week…
A great example of cement company differentiation is the Granville Cement company in Vancouver, BC. They painted their trucks with art. What if your company ran a drawing/painting contest for children of customers’ employees, then have customers vote on the best designs, and paint the winners on trucks?
Just a few early morning thoughts…
It is difficult to answer this question since we do not know what sets this company apart from its competitors.
If arriving on time is a “brand promise” then simply calling ahead to inform the dock/site of a timely arrival can both impress and reaffirm the message.
But honestly, few buyers will interact with a driver and if you really want to make an impact you should tell the high management to get their asses in front of the customer.
I would recommend giving the drivers some marketing training, explaining to them the value of the brand and getting their “buy-in” so that they can talk about the brand with passion and knowledge.
Have the drivers communicate up-to-the-minute with their customers. For example, if the driver gets stuck in traffic, he calls the customer to alert him to that. And in a situation like this, have the driver offer to pick up lunch or coffee to make up for the inconvenience.
Perhaps when the drivers make their deliveries the should talk about any upcoming shipping needs their customers have and offer solutions for those needs, even if your company can’t provide them.
In my company, we send out what we call “care cards.” It’s just a note that we send to our clients that thank them for being great clients and sometimes we’ll include tickets to a ball game or a comedy club or something.
Management has to take a big part in this, regardless of whether or not they interact with the customers at all. In fact, maybe the management should be sending the care cards.
How much do the truck-drivers know about all the other products/services the company can provide to their clients? If this knowledge is readily available I can imagine a conversation during the waiting time along the lines of:
“Do you know we also can do….. or we can also provide you with…..
Here’s a detailed leaflet/brochure telling you much more about it. And here’s the specific phone number of the department/person who deals with this product range/service”
Telling is not enough, leaving leaflets is not enough on its own too. It should be made simple for the client to ‘take action’ when needed.
Karin H (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)
It doesn’t appear on my resume anymore, but I used to be a truck driver … flammable liquids. My nick name was Wrong Way – but that’s a story for another day. Here’s what my old company did with all of their drivers:
Product knowledge – All truck drivers were required to go through formal training about the chemicals we were delivering. We kned more about the chemicals and solvents we delivered than any of our competitors’ drivers and most of our customers.
Sales knowledge – All of us were required to attend Dale Carnegie or a similar sales training course (tuition paid for by the company). Whenever a customer voiced an objection or a concern, we were trained on how to handle it.
Compensation – This is key … all drivers received a meager salary … the majority of our income came from commissions. Trust me, when most of your income is in direct correlation to how many gallons of chemicals/solvent or in this particular case concrete is delivered, as a driver I became very curious and extremely helpful to my customers. Helping a customer solve a problem beats out leaving a trinket every time.
Prospecting – All drivers were required to make cold sales calls. Yes, we were in grey uniforms with our first name threaded in script above the front pocket of our shirt. And no, we didn’t talk to the guys working on the back dock. We called on business owners, managers and (heaven forbid) even purchasing agents. We were much more believable than the competitor’s sales guys who walked around in fancy suites.
By the way, our company was the market share leader in every geographical area where we delivered product!
Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer this so thoughtfully. I got an e-mail from Milos — who was overwhelmed with your good ideas and generosity.
So from us both — thank you.