In our November issue, we reported what a random sampling of owner- operators had to say about their most recent experience at a service facility. Costs, time, quality of work, courtesy, and even the conditions in the waiting area were all addressed. While employed drivers may not be consulted about a choice of repair facilities or bear the responsibility for the costs of repairs, they do share many areas of concern with owner operators. While many service facilities wave the "customer satisfaction" banner, the drivers we surveyed indicate the service facilities they visited have room for improvement.
In overall satisfaction, 66 percent of the employed drivers who filled out our survey reported that they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with their most recent visit to a service facility, leaving 34 percent of these truckers less than thrilled with the experience.
If the driver is not the one paying the bill, is there any difference in the way he or she is treated at a service facility? Our survey indicates this may be the case. When comparing the responses of employed drivers to owner operators, in almost every area, employed drivers had a higher degree of dissatisfaction than owner-operators.
Time on their hands
Many drivers employed by large fleets never see the inside of a service facility thanks to their fleets' preventive maintenance programs. However, even with the best of intentions, breakdowns do happen. Fifty-one percent of our employed drivers told us their most recent visit to a service facility was mandated by a breakdown.
Time is money for everyone who drives a truck, no matter whose name is on the title. Few employed drivers are paid for sitting at a service facility. Sixty-five percent of employed drivers told us they received an estimate of the amount of time the work would take, but only 54 percent of these drivers reported the work was completed within the estimated time. Of that group, more than 46 percent felt that the difference in actual time taken for service or repairs versus the estimate was not justifiable. Thirty-eight percent said, as a result, they were late for a pick-up or delivery appointment or missed a load altogether.
Little things mean a lot
Seventy-five percent of our employed drivers reported the waiting area at the facility they visited was clean. Our drivers reported that 85 percent of facilities had coffee, cold drinks and snacks available. There was a phone available for the drivers' use in 88 percent of these facilities, and 78 percent had clean restrooms.
When meal time rolled around, 30 percent of our survey respondents said they were offered complimentary transportation to a restaurant, but 62 percent indicated that they were ignored by the facility's employees when it came to the mealtime issue. It doesn't take a marketing expert to figure out that if there are drivers sitting in a waiting room while their trucks are being serviced or repaired, chances are they don't have (1) knowledge of area restaurants, and (2) a way to get to a restaurant.
The same goes for drivers who will have to find a place to stay if their trucks will be in the shop overnight. Over half (55 percent) of employed drivers who completed our survey said they were not offered any information about available lodging. Only 36 percent said they were offered complimentary transportation to a hotel/motel.
The results of our survey indicate that managers and owners of truck service and repair facilities have a golden opportunity to significantly raise customer satisfaction levels by implementing policies to address the issues raised by our owner operators and drivers. Increased adherence to cost and time estimates, higher standards for quality of work, and more attention to customer comfort and convenience could mean a lot of free, word-of-mouth advertising and a healthy, growing business for them, and less headaches for professional truckers. LL
Is An Employed Driver's Opinion Important?
Driver's opinions are critical if driver retention is a goal of his/her employer. If an employer continues to route trucks into a facility where drivers have reported they are not treated well, these truckers may be inclined to start checking out other job opportunities.
An employed driver's opinion should also carry weight with service facilities. A certain percentage of today's employed drivers are the owner operators and small fleet owners of tomorrow. And those employed drivers who are seriously contemplating the move to truck ownership are no doubt storing impressions and information for future reference.