With the motorcoach industry at a virtual standstill resulting from the 2020 pandemic, ABC Companies continues to invest in serving its customers to ensure stability today and in the future. Guided by the belief that the company’s success is borne from its customers success, ABC President and Chief Commercial Officer Roman Cornell discussed how his organization is more focused than ever on shaping strategies and taking tangible steps toward helping customers move toward a stronger future.
Protecting the industry during a pandemic
With so many independent and diversified operators throughout the industry, ensuring that all voices were heard at the outset of the pandemic was a priority for ABC Companies. Together with other key players, ABC led the Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness (MR4A) committee that organized the May 13th rally in Washington, D.C.
“It was truly shocking that our industry was overlooked for federal stimulus funds, so protecting our customers was the impetus for starting the M4RA movement,” Cornell said. “We learned early on that, unless we brought our message to their doorstep, legislators wouldn’t understand the impact the motorcoach industry makes on communities, economies and the thousands of small business owners and their employees.”
Over 1,000 motorcoaches (or more than 13 miles of vehicles) safely, peacefully, and professionally educated the public and government, petitioning for help during the rolling rally in the nation’s capital. The M4RA Rally laid the foundation for creating a unified voice to secure support for the industry, coming most recently in the proposed CERTS Act, Cornell said.
Maneuvering with changing needs, investing in the future.
“While we have maneuvered with our changing customer needs, we have also maintained the discipline, and expense to continue investing in our coach, support, parts and service offerings even as we have seen our demand come to a crawl,” Cornell said.
The company’s upcoming Q4 launches of both the new Van Hool CX45E battery electric coach, and the T2145E diesel-to-electric repower reflect that commitment – providing more choice, price points, availability and capability to the small but rapidly growing electric coach market, while paving the way for both the acceleration and trickle down of more technology into internal combustion engine (ICE) powered coaches.
“Roman has balanced bringing in products and services critical to success in the future, with supporting immediate and evolving customer needs,” said Dane Cornell, CEO of ABC Companies. “As my father, Clancy, stressed, nothing we do can be at the expense of our core customers. So, as we move forward, it is built on a solid foundation of serving our customers yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
ABC is committed to this ethos as it continues investing in the traditional market, as evidenced by significant interior and driver area upgrades while adding several new passenger convenience and driver assistance features for the 2020 model year.
“We see synergies between the emerging technologies and resulting fleet diversification our customers will require into the future and are excited about being on the cutting edge for many of these products and services,” Roman Cornell said. “In fact, we have recently launched a new Specialty Vehicles & Technologies division to focus on identifying, supporting, and then training and educating our customers on
solutions they may not even know exist today. We are very excited about a portfolio of new products and services that we are preparing for commercial release.”
“However,” he added, “although we see great things in the future, and are excited about what battery electric and other technologies can do for customer applications, we must offer a scalable solution. It’s getting much more complex to maintain a competitive edge while managing costs, and we want to make sure customers know they can count on us to provide them the right sized solution, not simply sell them the next thing.”
To that end, ABC continues to hone and refine the basics to provide its customers a competitive advantage. For example: revamping new models with interiors which are easy to clean and sanitize while not sacrificing an upscale appearance and feel, and creating packages which allow greater discounts on the most popular features and options by leveraging volume savings during manufacturing.
“The basics also include making sure we are never more than a phone call away,” Roman Cornell said. “We are very proud of our continued support of our customers through these difficult times, whether it’s through maintaining our 24/7 CustomerCare hotline, or the facility changes and procedures we made to keep our service, parts and delivery areas open to serve customers.”
Promoting motorcoach travel, expanding digital resources
ABC Companies leads the industry in both pre-owned and OEM Van Hool coach sales and is keenly focused on bringing new products and services to market that match the needs of its diversified customer base. Part of that focus is helping customers to promote their business, an especially vital discipline noted Cornell in the face of an unprecedented market.
“We have been working to promote motorcoach travel, as we believe the time is right for our industry to attract new riders and welcome back previous riders,” Roman Cornell said. “Whether it is videos demonstrating the thorough level of cleaning and sanitization being done by our operators, to general education like our “Did You Know” series (https://youtu.be/xfxT0_E32Cs) the time is now to educate the public on the many benefits of motorcoach travel.”
ABC has also used the industry slowdown to invest in expanding digital resources for customers via abc-companies.com. Online resources continue to grow with online sign-up for training, equipment manuals, additional “grab-n-go” training videos and more. The website also provides resources for customer promotional and educational efforts with materials that can be used within their digital presence whether on their own website, social media channels, direct marketing, etc. Digital tools such as the ABC 360 Coach experience, allows customers to preview in detail a new Van Hool vehicle without leaving their facility. Via https://www.abc-companies.com/360video/2020_cx45/, users can virtually walk around the coach and zoom in for up close inspection in addition to selecting video highlights embedded within the environment. This can also be shared by operators who want to provide clients an opportunity to tour a representative coach.
New to the site is availability of customized videos for order based on ABC’s CLEANS marketing materials, providing users of the various CLEANS products a low-cost branded video sharing the steps operators are taking with their coaches.
“Helping our customers promote the steps they have taken to safeguard their passengers is key to getting traditional riders back on the bus and attracting new riders as the travelling public re-evaluates how they conduct group travel,” said Thom Peebles, vice president, marketing ABC Companies.
More than motorcoach sales
“We don’t solely exist to sell equipment,” Roman Cornell said. “Our business model parallels our customers’ needs regardless of their fleet size or composition. Oftentimes, a customer may really need to talk through their business challenges or do a deep dive on a specific functional business area before we can shape the right solution for them. It’s very individual and personal, and we share similarities that forge strong bonds and the confidence that we are along for the ride whether it’s a smooth or rocky road.”
ABC consistently explores new ways to reduce the cost of operations for its customers. By continually adding and refining various OE and aftermarket parts suppliers, the goal is to better serve as a one-stop shop, while maintaining inventory levels based on customer needs. Warehouse SKUs offer the most popular motorcoach and many popular transit models.
“Our customers know they can count on us to have what they need, when they need it,” said John Gillis, vice president ABC Parts Source. “These additions are all on the ABC Parts Source Online Parts Store, providing the convenience of single source billing, shipping, etc. and are eligible for our online order discount program. Many of our traditional operators are seeing the benefit of ABC Parts Source as their go to supplier, allowing them to reduce their inventory levels to increase cash flow while still having access to parts they need. We also continue to look for ways to supply parts across a customer’s entire fleet and look forward to expanding some successful pilots we currently have underway.”
ABC’s Service Division has continued training their team preparing for the challenges ahead as many of its customers begin to return to service. ABC monitors areas customers are focused on and common inquiries to ensure it is scaled up and ready to support. In preparing for the future, the company is committed to accelerating technology integration. For example, our service and support team has already completed initial training required to service the company’s forthcoming introduction of electric powered coaches.
“Bottom line, we want the overall service experience to exceed the expectations of our customers,” Roman Cornell said.
An unprecedented opportunity
ABC’s singular focus and dedication to the private motorcoach market and its operators has been proven out for over six decades and particularly so during these challenging times. The company is redoubling efforts to assess and identify winning strategies for practical and forward-looking solutions and services that make sense in a changing environment.
“We truly believe that the pandemic has provided us with a unique opportunity to push the “reset button” on our industry,” Roman Cornell said. “We can now promote the many unknown benefits of today’s motorcoach. From superior airflow and the advanced filtration systems, to passenger convenience and comfort versus trains and planes, it is time to bring much needed attention to our operators and their fleets. With the positive impact on the environment and infrastructure motorcoach travel delivers and being the right size solution between ride sharing and other group passenger travel, the time is now for motorcoach travel. We are at a critical point for the industry to promote itself – not only with traditional riders, but with new customer bases. I truly hope as an industry, we will look back on this period and realize we took this unprecedented opportunity to promote and grow our industry at a time when the traveling public was rethinking all forms of transportation.”