How does after-sale support translate for customers? BUSRide spoke with industry experts on the value of post-sales service and support.
What does “after-sale support” mean to your company? What levels of service and support after the sale do you provide?
Kevin Dawson: For Prevost, Volvo, and Nova Bus, the three brands we’re supporting, after service means we’re going to be there all the time. It’s a level of excellence that we provide to the customer, no matter if it’s a single bus owner or if it’s a 100-bus owner. We track the vehicle’s off-road status, meaning if a bus is down for service or parts, we have an internal focus team that comes together and drives towards a solution to make sure that, no matter what it takes, we’re getting that customer’s bus up on the road. Secondly, after service support means service, parts, and OEM support. We don’t offer after-market solutions, or non-OEM components; what we sell to the end users is exactly what they received when the bus was built through production. We are customer-focused in our after service, with attention to getting buses up and running, and making sure that the customer knows that we are there at all times.
Monica Marcos: Safety Vision prides itself on customer service and support after the purchase. Over the last 25+ years, this is one of the main factors in gaining and retaining many large and small customers.
The project does not end when technicians complete the implementation, train, and leave the premises. Our biggest strength and the most important part of any project is what happens after. During the length of the warranty, Safety Vision will provide technical service, troubleshooting help, and exchange components to assure the systems are functioning as they are intended. Lifetime software updates, maintenance, and technical support associated with the system are included.
The technical support team has vast experience amongst all our product lines. In total, they have 40+ years of experience in serving our customers.
Michael Anstead: After-sales support is very important to ABC Companies. We have an entire department dedicated to this called CustomerCare. We know that our sales department can sell the first coach, but it’s after the sale support that keeps the customers coming back.
ABC’s commitment to the customer carries on through our CustomerCare team. Our team is available 24/7/365 to take calls from drivers and operators to assist them where needed. This support includes technical assistance as well as training on maintenance and operations for the customers fleet.
Our CustomerCare makes it convenient for customers by offering training options including online, at our locations around the country, or even at the customers’ location. We custom tailor the training to the customers’ needs. ABC CustomerCare staff has 368 combined years of bus and motorcoach experience. We also employ
highly trained field technicians around the country to support, train and assist our customers at their facilities.
Chad Dixon: After-sale support for us is the flexibility to adapt to the needs of our customers by providing them with the services they need. We can provide our customer with personalized services with high added value. Our strategy is based on maintaining a close, direct relationship with our customer which develops trust and confidence to ensure satisfaction. We aim to exceed the expectations of our customers and stay in constant communication while providing an established project you can put your trust in. It is a strategic factor that sets us apart from our competitors and enables us to earn their loyalty.
We have agreements with different partner suppliers and service workshops —located strategically across the U.S — providing for the ability to quickly respond to any situation. In addition to our service workshops, we utilize a team of skilled and trained
mobile technicians. We manage the mobile technician workforce resources in a way that enables us to always provide a next day, and in many cases same day, service response solution. This approach coupled with our parts warehouse located in the Pacific Time Zone maximizes our ability to overnight any required parts for next day delivery and provide for the highest level of responsiveness to any unscheduled maintenance issue. Additionally, we have agreements with our driveline and componentry suppliers (engine, transmission, HVAC, doors…) providing for the ability for every customer to utilize this network for the specific systems.
Jim Macdonald: MCI’s after-sale support literally encompasses every function required to help operators maximize coach uptime from the moment the coach is sold until it is retired. Last year, we formed the Quality and Customer Service group, to redefine our aftermarket services by realigning our field service, technical call center, warranty operations, service centers and factory quality teams under OEM, creating a better field and factory link. The new structure allows a seamless sharing of knowledge between
MCI manufacturing, engineering and our technical experts who directly serve operators of MCI coaches in the field and over the phone. Improvements have also been made to our online publications, warranty support, parts availability, technician training and ERSA (Emergency Roadside Assistance). All levels of support are available to our customers in the field, on the phone or online.
Do you offer special delivery options as part of your sale or after-sale efforts? Please describe.
Dixon: As part of our product offerings we have extended warranty packages for driveline, based on Cummins and Allison Transmission within specific conditions. The standard Irizar warranty provides coverage for 30 months / 250,000 miles but an extended package could cover up to 60 months / 500,000 miles for the engine and 60 months / unlimited mileage for the transmission.
Furthermore, as Irizar is headquartered in Spain where all production for the integral Irizar i6 motorcoaches for the U.S. market are manufactured, we have experienced a trend with more customers opting for a Repair & Maintenance contract. As an OEM, Irizar has deep experience with this type of service program and we are developing various levels of offerings for this support in the U.S.
Scott Robertson: From a parts standpoint, we offer expedited delivery options on emergency parts and for nearly everything in the parts catalog. We also customize our vehicle onboarding, orientation and training based on the customer’s needs and level of knowledge of our product.
Anstead: Our customers can either pick up at our Florida location or from any ABC location around the country. We also offer delivery services to our customer locations.
Marcos: Located at our Corporate Headquarters in Houston, TX, an on-site, four-tier 35,000 sq. foot warehouse stores over ten million dollars of inventory. Same day shipping is available before 3 p.m. Central Time. Standard, as well as overnight, next day delivery, and 2nd day delivery options are all available as well.
Dawson: After sales, parts after delivery, service after delivery, and service centers are all part of our services groups. As it relates to the parts and services portion of the business, there is free freight on any orders, regardless of what it is. We also do consignment inventory with customers if they are ramping up their business, are newer to Prevost, and don’t want to necessarily hold a lot of inventory as they are making a fleet switch or a bus manufacturer switch. We may offer consignment where we actually own the dollars of that inventory sitting on their ground. It helps them with cash flow and helps them ease into the business of dealing with Prevost. We offer online ordering and specific discounts for using the online systems. Generally, if they want to call in, they can do that as well.
What levels of customization do you offer with your products / solutions?
Robertson: In the same way an MCI coach can be customized to meet a customers’ specification, we work with operators on solutions for their parts and training needs. Training is highly customizable and can occur online with our LMS system, on-site at a customer location, or at our MCI Academy in Louisville, KY.
When it comes to parts, we can help find legacy parts or in certain situations can even help to source the manufacture of a required part.
We can even customize a maintenance solution for a customer looking for an all-in price on preventative maintenance and coach repair.
Dawson: We can offer in-house product solutions, or they can bring them to our service centers. If they want to do some electronic data logging, which is a new regulation, we can offer custom solutions for integration within other OEM buses, and with our own buses. Obviously, customers want customer- specific solutions regarding audio and entertainment, be it on the entertainment market where we’ve actually had some stars come in and say, “Hey, can you guys install a PlayStation within my entertainer coach?” “Yep, no problem. We’ll figure out how to do it.” If the customer asks for some level of customization that’s reasonable, we’re going to figure out how to do it.
Anstead: We focus on the solutions that satisfy our customers’ needs. Our onsite engineering department communicates to Van Hool any customer demands, market trends, as well as any customization requests a customer may have.
Dixon: As an OEM, we provide for our clients the ability to access the technical documentation and schematics specific to their motorcoach. Our iService tool, an after-sale web-based platform that provides mechanical details and the ability to view systems and components of a specific vehicle, is very popular with our customers. Technicians are able to see an exploded view diagram and be certain they understand the design or are ordering exactly the part they need. It is a very valuable tool and also offers work instructions for a variety of maintenance or repair items.
Additionally, in order to provide technical data, information and solutions to various issues or systems of the vehicle, we also offer our specific diagnostic tool- iST (Irizar Service Tool). This device enables a system diagnosis of every area of the motorcoach.
Marcos: All products / solutions are custom-tailored to fit your exact business needs. Our expertise is grounded in our long history and our thorough understanding of video technology applications across the mobile landscape. Many customers look to us for customized solutions that integrate these and other mobile systems and technologies.
How do you plan to expand your after-sale support capabilities in the future?
Anstead: Our customers’ needs are what drive the future growth of our after-sales support. This includes all areas of ABC customer care including, in-house and field technicians, training, as well as engineering and product development. We continuously analyze this department to determine how we can better serve our customers.
Dixon: We are continuously searching for new service solutions. Obviously, at this stage, the after-sale services are mostly focused in the areas where our customers are currently operating, but in looking ahead and given how the product has performed and been received by our customers, our expectations are to substantially further develop our service network and footprint. Regardless of our projections, our commitment to maintaining a close relationship with every customer, providing concierge level service on a 24/7 basis, and a quick response to any situation will always remain the foundation of our success in the market.
Marcos: Safety Vision’s plans for expansion of after-sale support capabilities includes newly developed “How-to” video tutorials to help train customers for using software. These instructional videos will also be a great asset to customers to use for any future software training refreshers, if needed.
At the top of most end users’ VMS wish lists after-the-sale, is the ability to integrate video and a host of other systems. Through collaboration with a vast customer base, and the implementation of innovative designs to improve the product offering, allows Safety Vision to continue to grow in its technological capabilities over time to meet new needs. With our newly developed open platform hardware and software, you have the freedom to add new technologies as they are developed. This allows you to continually update and improve your security system, providing more flexibility and the added assurance that your investment, for the most part, is future proof. It can also help you avoid the pitfalls of traditional security systems, such as limited connectivity between various applications, compatibility issues, and complicated and costly maintenance.
Dawson: We have a roadmap in front of us. Last year we opened two or three service centers, which brought us up to 15 service centers, brick and mortar, across North America. The goal is to be at 20 by 2020. We believe that having the most expansive network within the industry provides the differentiation between us and the competition, and it helps our customers know we’re there with the brick and mortar investment. Buildings are not cheap. Facilities aren’t cheap. But, we know, through our expansive growth in the past three to five years, that it is a clear recipe for us and for the Prevost brand, and all the brands that we are supporting, to have brick and mortar in someone’s backyard or within a reasonable regional drive to make sure that they know we are there to support them. We want to continue to support through after service, parts support to the after service, and also service networks. So, in five years, we’ll have five more stores at significant investment. We absolutely believe it’s the right recipe for the future.
Macdonald: We are always looking for ways to provide best-in-class after sale support. We recently opened a new flagship San Francisco Bay Area service center in the Hayward, CA to offer local parts and service to the growing base of Silicon Valley companies offering employee transportation services. We’re also upgrading all other MCI service centers with tooling, equipment and aesthetic improvements. These centers are reliable places for customers to bring in coaches for repairs, check out new and pre-owned coaches, and meet for technician training. In the field we added five more TSMs (Technical Solution Managers) and divided out territories for better coverage to help MCI operators understand new technologies and gain expertise on various coach systems. Calls to our ERSA call center are now always answered by an MCI employee.
Robertson: We’re also making it more convenient than ever to order parts from any of our service centers or online through the Parts Store that now offers superior inventory searches, on-point suggestions, unprecedented visuals, expedited shipping estimates, improved tracking and more from a desktop, tablet or smart phone.
The MCI Companion App can identify all service locations available in any pinpointed location, and provides links to key information about coach systems operations and much more. We are also developing a series of ‘how to’ videos related to coach systems and proper installation of key parts.
Our focus is to help operators succeed. Our coaches are getting nearer to automotive quality and customers can expect the service experience with MCI coaches to be as reliable.