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Zero One: How To Digitally Transform an Old Industry

Digital’s hard returns on investment open doors, but a better customer experience closes the deal, a truck repair company learned.

Chris Micheal faced a Herculean task getting a heavy-duty truck repair company to invest in and deploy a digital work processing system. Making the case for digital transformation in an old industry isn’t easy. It’s loathe to make changes to the workflow and tends to be skeptical about high-tech wizardry. Worse, employees cling to the dog-and-bone – that is, the trusty telephone – and shun electronic ways to collaborate.

“You have to get the executive management on board, driving it down through the employee line,” says Micheal, manager of quality processing systems at WheelTime Network, an organization made up of 15 truck repair companies. “It has to be a culture change for the entire company.”

This just doesn’t seem possible for companies in traditional industries, especially those operating in the greasy world of truck repair. Nevertheless, Micheal, was tasked with selling a work-processing system to WheelTime member company Valley Power Systems. Developed by Decisv, the system would allow branches to work together on everything from generating quotes to managing repair jobs to invoicing to handling customer complaints.

By reducing reliance on old-fashioned telephones and cluttered email inboxes, the system could wring out inefficiencies and speed up the entire repair job. It’s an important competitive advantage, since a customer can lose up to $1,000 a day while a truck is in the shop.

Related: Zero One: Winning the Customer Experience Battle

Competitive advantage aside, Valley Power Systems executives wanted hard returns on its tech investment. Micheal convinced them to roll out a pilot project and see for themselves. On the savings side, the system cut internal costs by about 42 percent, mostly by making admins more efficient. On the revenue side, the system accurately managed parts going into repair jobs, which translated into 3.2 percent higher invoices.

But it was digital’s delivery of a great customer experience that won the day.

The system reduced quoting time by 66 percent and the amount of time a broken truck wasn’t being worked on by 31 percent. Customers raved. The gap between the initial quote and final invoice shrunk by 16 percent, reducing the number of times customers complained. When customers did challenge invoices, Valley Power Systems employees had all the information at their fingertips and could quickly answer questions rather than put irate customers on hold. Employees raved.

 “We have to sell [executives] on the money, but once they get the first customer experience out of the platform, it changes their entire view,” Micheal says. “At first, I was told not to touch the on-highway group, but after the customer experience, they requested the on-highway group get put in.”

Related: 2017 Salary Guide: 16 Hottest Digital Transformation Skills

For Valley Power Systems, Micheal’s job is to implement Decisv at seven on-highway branches and three off-highway branches. As of today, all seven on-highway branches are using the system on a daily basis, one off-highway branch is piloting, and the other two off-highway branches should be on board by the end of this year.

Micheal is moving fast and ahead of schedule.

“We’re in the heavy-duty, medium-duty truck repair game, which has stayed the same for decades. Everyone is familiar with how it works, and there are lots of legacy employees,” he says. “But we’re in an ever-changing world, and now the industry has to play catch-up. We have to be able to adapt, change, think of new ways of doing business… and find the technology that’s going to allow us to do this.”

Based in Silicon Valley, Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is eager to hear how digital transformation is impacting your business. You can reach him at [email protected]  

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