While waiting for a red light to change the other day, my car windows suddenly began to vibrate along with the rest of the car from a pulsing base that emanated from the van that had just pulled up alongside. I am always curious so I glanced over and saw a young man behind the wheel who was so into the loud music he was oblivious to his surroundings and drumming away on the steering wheel. Then my eyes wondered over to the vehicle’s logo and it was a Dish TV van! Now he could have been detoxing from his last appointment that may have been a very difficult customer. Who knows, but I must tell you my first impression was “would I want this bozo in my house?” Whether that is a fair assessment or not, your drivers, delivering goods or services are a roving advertisement for your business and their actions on the road can leave a lasting perception, good or bad, about our company, justified or not.
It speaks of your hiring process, the quality of the employees, the kind of training they receive and expected level of service and professionalism. Recently had 4 large, heavy cartons delivered to my house. After carrying the first carton to the front door and watching him struggle I told the driver he could bring the rest of the cartons to the garage since it was much closer and would be easier. He then proceeded to carry the second and third box, up the driveway to the garage, still struggling, breathing hard and sweating. I guess he had enough as he disappeared into the back of his brown van and you could hear noises of items clanging and banging as they were shifted until he emerged a good ten minutes later with a hand truck and wheeled in the last carton. His uniform was soaked as the sweat continued pouring off his brow. As much as I felt bad for him, he didn’t come across very professional at all as his abilities to plan was questionable. So is this an issue of poor training or poor hire? How long will he last with this poor technique and attitude, especially during the holiday rush? Can you count on him when the crunch comes?
The drivers of big rigs with trailers, tankers, and flatbeds that we share the road with are a collection of professional truck drivers who are fantastic but then there are just drivers of trucks, who may actually give you one full blink of their turn signal before making a lane change and create a near miss. Or they may block an intersection so cars can’t get ahead of them as they make a turn or cut off cars making for the freeway ramp. Again, we don’t know what kind of day they had and may have been dealing with angry dispatchers, freeway traffic, irate customers, crowded intersections, bad weather, double parked cars, all types of unexpected obstacles, commuters who drive distracted and unrealistic schedules. Folks, I’m here to tell you, trucks, especially a fully loaded one can’t stop or maneuver like a car but again, how your drivers react gives a perception that may leave a strong impression.
In addition to being an ad for your company, drivers face more stress as they are also your customer service reps as well. In addition to their sales representative, the driver is the other face the customer usually sees and who do you think they dump on when their order is wrong or incomplete? Some companies also expect the drivers to pick up returns, damaged/outdated items and possibly C.O.D.s The good news is there are ways to help alleviate this daily stress for your drivers. It begins at the warehouse with a proper stocking of pick locations and using FIFO with fresh food items, having the correct stock in the pick location and the correct units per item. Then correctly loading the trailer would also help and get to a great start to their day. Ask the driver for input as he knows the customers’ habits best. Also looking at the stop times on delivery routes and total time is another great way to work together to make the job easier and hassle-free. Are the times truly realistic? It’s very easy to look at things on a map and come up with delivery goals from behind a desk as to actually doing the job. That’s why it is highly recommended that you travel with your drivers at least once a year on their routes and see it from their perspective and if something drastic was to change on their routes, again, go on a ride along. It’s a great excuse for the boss to get out to clear their head and buy your driver lunch.
While you’re on the ride along also look at what and where your drivers have to part to make their delivery. Is it the safest place for your driver to park and make their deliveries safely for themselves and other people around the area. Make sure your vehicle doesn’t block or obstruct views of passing cars from seeing pedestrians or the other way around. Don’t block stop signs or pedestrian crosswalks or park in red zones. Don’t become part of the congestion and distraction especially on a busy street or shopping center.
The condition and appearance of the vehicle carrying your company name and logo splashed across also speaks loudly of your company. The driver and vehicle should look professional to give confidence to your customers that they know what they’re doing. Drivers should attempt to dress neat and clean and if you require them to wear uniforms there should be no exceptions to altering the look. Make sure they’re covered for all four seasons, with comfortable equipment that can hold up to the rigors of the job and then back it all with a written dress code spelling out what is and isn’t acceptable. ID badges with their picture and company name would also give a very professional look.
The vehicles should be washed on a regular basis, inside and out, free of damage and regularly serviced and properly maintained making sure brake lights, headlights and tires are good to go. Use a daily checklist to ensure critical areas are inspected before beginning the day. If there is ever a question on how safe it is, always err on the side of caution and red-tag the vehicle and report the problem immediately. Vehicle appearance is a reflection on your company and you also don’t want to lose time with vehicle breakdowns. I also suggest a policy of “NO bumper stickers” of any kind on the vehicle as there are some that can offend not only your customers but others on the road that have to view it. If you deliver food products or other perishables make sure to keep them clean and odor free inside and use those curtains to keep frozen and cooler items separated, as there is nothing worse then delivering frozen produce to a customer. Make sure drivers have the proper equipment to make their deliveries quickly and safely and emergency equipment to safely deal with breakdowns and repair service they can call during off hours.
To further ensure you drivers succeed have clear and concise written procedures on everything. Cover customer returns, pickups, C.O.D.s, safety checklists, PPE and the paperwork needed to complete the tasks. Then be consistent. Try to keep exceptions to a minimum and don’t put the driver in the middle as they shouldn’t have to deal with a customer telling them Mr. Soso said it was o.k. to return when the driver knows nothing about it and that’s not the procedure. Then, in turn, don’t beat up the driver when he does take it to make a customer happy because the approval process for the return has taken several weeks on the company end and no one has contacted the customer. Be consistent.
As stated at the beginning, your drivers are ads whether you like it or not so help them out by giving them everything they need to be successful and after a long hard day of traffic, being pleasant and helpful to unhappy customers, allow them to vent and listen to their concerns. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how that all pays off with more happy customers.