BUSRide recently spoke with various motorcoach providers to discover what after-sale support means to them, and how they ensure that they are fulfilling customer service needs. Panelists include:
Duane Geiger – president and CEO – CH Bus Sales
Kevin Dawson – vice president, parts sales & business development – Prevost
Scott Robertson – director, product management – Motor Coach Industries (MCI)
Todd Pocobello – director of product services – REV Bus Group
Tell us what “after-sale support” means to your company.
Duane Geiger: There is an old saying that the salesperson sells an operator the first bus, but the after-sales support team will sell the second, and the third, etc. Our team knows the importance of quality service. In just 5 short years, CH Bus Sales has grown from a team of four people to over 60 employees and most of those positions revolve around after-sales support in parts, warranty, technical assistance, and maintenance. Our technicians, mechanics, and warranty teams are well-trained with the expertise to service not only the TEMSA product, but all other makes and models currently in the industry.
Todd Pocobello: It means life-cycle relationships. This is where the value of the product purchased becomes realized. It’s support to not only put the vehicle into service, but to keep it in service.
Kevin Dawson: After sale service and support means providing the best level of customer service, satisfaction and support throughout customer life cycle / vehicle ownership. It means going above and beyond regardless of warranty status or out of warranty status. Customers drive our business, thus we remain focused on these fundamentals each day.
Scott Robertson: From the moment a coach leaves the factory, we do anything and everything to keep that asset moving people for its lifetime. Our aftermarket support organization actively supports our more than 28,000 motorcoaches currently in service in North America.
What levels of aftermarket service and support do you provide?
Geiger: CH Bus has four full service locations located in Orlando, FL, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Pine Brook, NJ, and Burlingame, CA. Customers are able to order parts from any of the four locations. We fully stock Temsa parts at all of our locations in the U.S. We also stock other OE parts at a competitive price. As of June 2017, we have opened our online parts store where customers can order parts online. It is a user-friendly website where each customer will have their own separate accounts where they can track past orders and maintain their own address book if they have multiple locations for parts shipments. We pride ourselves on offering 24/7 support for all of our customers. When customers call after-hours to our 24/7 number, they will reach an actual person who is trained to help on technical-related issues.
Pocobello: REV is extremely focused on providing solutions to customers with technical documentation, training materials for operators and technicians, live telephone assistance, access to parts solutions and the best preventive maintenance plans available in the industry.
Dawson: There are not “levels” per say, only one level – Prevost Delight program coupled with a focus on “we go above and beyond.” We do provide a wide range of services including but not limited to parts sales, service repair, mobile service, technical support and technical training.
Robertson: At MCI, we provide parts support, technical support, and training. Training is offered on a customer’s site, online, and at our Aftermarket Headquarters in Louisville, KY. In Louisville, we have nearly 400,000 feet of space which houses: our primary parts distribution (which is enhanced by our nine regional locations); our 24/7 technical call center which includes ERSA – Emergency RoadSide Assistance, warranty processing, parts ordering and lookup services; and our National Training Center, which includes MCI Academy, and MCI’s online Learning Management System support. We also have an MCI Companion App that gives coach operators fast access to support, mobile access to publications, drivers’ guides and videos, routes to the nearest MCI location, parts promotions and one-touch MCI support calling.
Does after-sale support have an effect on your pricing? If so, how?
Geiger: After-sale support is a cost function of supporting our product. As a dealer with integrity, we feel it is our responsibility to provide the ultimate support to all of our customers. We could mark-up the cost of the coach in order to balance the cost of service, but we don’t. We are continuing to build our team (as seen in the full-service facility expansions) and ensure our mechanics, technicians, parts teams, and warranty departments are well-trained and knowledgeable, so that we meet the needs of the customer, the first time.
Pocobello: Top quality after-sales support builds the value into the customer’s purchase and decreases the total cost of ownership. This can allow for minimizing price concessions in other areas.
Dawson: Aftersales support does not affect pricing, rather the opposite. We continue to drive pricing by market forces and market acceptance. Providing the best level of customer service, coupled with market competitive pricing, ensures future success for our customers.
Robertson: We must be market-competitive with our prices, but we do rely on parts and coach sales to fund many of the extra support services, that are above and beyond what an operator would get from a local parts distributor.
We believe that we add value by offering a breadth of OEM quality product that is competitively priced. We only succeed if we prove this value to customers and earn their loyalty.
We are always working to give motorcoach operators optimal savings and new tools to keep fleets running strong. We offer free standard shipping on parts for orders of all sizes. No minimum order is required.
How do you ensure that your customers don’t have issues with parts availability?
Geiger: It’s important that our inventory management processes are up-to-date and monitored closely. We work carefully to find the balance between having a right amount of inventory versus an over or under stock situation. However, if you’re going to err you want to do so in favor of the customer. What will keep them moving?
It’s important that our entire organization is committed to keeping our operators moving. Unfortunately, there are times where we may not have something that’s needed by an operator. How we respond to that situation is just as important as trying to ensure we have it to begin with.
Pocobello: We have been focused on utilizing many common parts, components and materials wherever possible. This helps control any potential obsolescence in the products we sell. We also have created PDCs throughout the country to help minimize transportation times between the coasts.
Dawson: We acknowledge we cannot provide every part, however we have a formal review process to identify faster moving components within our service network and ensure we stock accordingly. Parts stocking for both fast moving and slow moving parts are monitored by forecasted consumption vs. actual consumption of materials. Our Distribution Centers house slow moving components, while our service centers (13) warehouse mainly fast moving components. Our customers have the ability to look within materials warehouses and determine which location has their materials and where materials will be coming from. We are also monitoring components causing the vehicle(s) to be placed out of service and review stocking baselines accordingly, thus we fix a problem for a bus down and also for future demand.
Robertson: We work very hard on parts availability at MCI. The company has made significant investments in inventory to ensure the most critical parts are on-hand and available for quick delivery. We would prefer that we have everything on the shelf but that’s not always the case. When we’re out of stock on a critical item, we have a team of people that meets daily to look at every option to take care of a waiting customer. We will literally scour the earth looking for a part for our customer. Every day a coach is waiting for a part is dollars out of an owner’s pocket. We appreciate that and try to act as if that was our own money. We’ve recently purchased a new inventory management tool that should help move availability to never before seen levels at MCI.
What levels of customization do you offer for customers who need to fulfill specific needs?
Geiger: CH Bus Sales always strives to accommodate any customer requests, no matter what point they are in, in the buying process. If a customer requests a customized vehicle specification, we work promptly with the factory to make that happen.
Pocobello: We pride ourselves in the development of robust business practices, but we also have the individual ability within our unique brands to provide customized solutions to practically anything that a customer could desire. We focus on the solution our customer needs, rather than attempting to provide business the way it’s always been done.
Dawson: Customization is dependent on need and corresponding complexity of request. We have the ability to create custom parts and parts kitting solutions, however custom solutions are evaluated based upon ability to sell within our market segments.
Robertson: Every accident is literally a custom parts order. Many times we will tailor a solution giving the repair shop only what they need to complete the job. We’ve also been known to help customers with fleet wide retrofits. We are the OEM, so most of the time we are updating a fleet with technology that is available on later model coaches. Many times these activities lead to the creation of a kit that we will market to other operators that may have similar needs.
Can you give us an example (or several) of extreme special needs requests your company was able to meet for a customer – after the sale?
Geiger: There have been occasions where we have taken a part from a new coach to ensure that our operator(s) kept their coaches moving. One such instance involved a component that had been shipped to us incorrectly by a supplier. We removed the component from a new coach on our lot but our customer was able to get back on the road.
Our Service Department has made runs during the business day and after hours to assist customers at theme parks, on the side of the road, and even at an operator’s garage. This doesn’t include the work that our Field Technicians have performed for customers in the same types of situations.
Pocobello: While I cannot think of particular events, we treat every customer’s need as a special need and we want to perform to an extreme level, even when extreme measures are not required.
Dawson: Recently we had a customer whose vehicle was damaged by one of their operators; they damaged the side of their bus on the street side. Prevost parts pulled the side vehicle skin out of production spare materials. Prevost aftersales support sent tooling to the customer location and trained personnel to install the side skin. This is one example of many where we go above and beyond.
Robertson: MCI’s Emergency Roadside Assistance (ERSA) is hands down the best source for customers to get service 24/7. In coach-down situations, our service locator available on the MCI Companion App, or from the MCI website, identifies all service locations available in any pinpointed location. We created the list from our own call center data base to provide our customers with the best options. The complete list includes more than 1,800 service suppliers. The list includes six MCI Service Centers, as well as Cummins coach-friendly support network, Detroit Diesel and Caterpillar locations. Only by working together in a seamless and responsive way with our parts and technical support teams, can we be effective at this.
Is there a “statute of limitations” on after-sales support for your customers? In other words, how long after the sale do you keep supporting the customer?
Geiger: Definitely not. Just as we strive to accommodate special requests, we strive to offer the best service to all of our customers, whether they have one of our coaches or 50 of them. We have customers that are still running the first coach(es) they bought from us, 2010 – 2012 models, and we continue to work with them on parts and service. Overall, the operator’s support of our product has been so appreciated over these last five and a half years.
Pocobello: We believe in customers for life. No matter the age of your REV Vehicle, you can always count on our REV Solutions Team to provide technical support as long as you operate our buses.
Dawson: There are legal requirements which govern parts manufacturing that we adhere to. Warranty coverage is also well-defined and can vary by product line and or contract. There is no statute of limitations for technical support of our products.
Robertson: If it’s an MCI or Setra, we will support it, period. When a coach gets to be 15 years and older, some parts become difficult to source, but it’s our job to give the customer options at the best value to keep their coach on the road.