By Ashley Jones
Businesses in the residential water treatment industry face a variety of daily operational challenges, including active delivery schedules along with the task of proactively tracking vehicles in order to accommodate ever-changing delivery requests. Additionally, for companies in this industry, equipment is their business. Companies must be able to track and manage their investments without compromising security and efficiency. These are daunting tasks, but thankfully, there are fleet tracking businesses to provide holistic solutions to meet needs and surpass expectations. Managing a large fleet across various departments tends to be a common theme resonating among companies. Dispatchers are tasked with assigning jobs to drivers, which can often be a time-consuming responsibility. While they must manage large geographic regions, uncontrollable factors come into play. Drivers get lost. Traffic and road conditions change on the fly. Customer emergencies require re-routing at a moment’s notice.
According to the Aberdeen Group (http://www.aberdeen.com/Aberdeen-Library/8104/AI-mobile-field-service.aspx), 45 percent of service and manufacturing organizations reported that the development of visibility into service technicians, vehicles, parts and resources was a key part in ensuring improved field service performance. Transparency from the main office to individual vehicles was necessary in running an efficient and profitable service business. By empowering fleet operations with a GPS fleet tracking solution, the task of communicating was simplified and there was a tangible and direct impact on operational functionality. In fact, companies that implemented this solution saw an increase in fleet productivity, driver productivity, a decrease in fuel costs and an increase in recovered stolen assets.
Importance of route optimization
According to AAA’s 2012 Your Driving Costs study, the cost of owning and operating a vehicle in the US increased by 1.9 percent from 2011. Additionally, fuel costs rose a whopping 14.8 percent, the cost of tires increased by 4.2 percent and insurance increased by 3.4 percent. All of these rising costs affect a business’ bottom line, and where fleet optimization is the determinant between profits and loss, a dispatching tool can make or break business operations. Geographic location can bring an onset of challenges to fleet management. In a metropolitan area, it’s helpful for drivers to receive real-time updates from dispatch to avoid traffic incidents, roadwork and unnecessary tolls. Alternatively, servicing and operating a fleet in remote locations, having the ability to gain a clear understanding of where fleets are and where they are going is crucial. In order to minimize costs, drivers should be given the most direct route in addition to optimizing the number of locations they service. Fuel consumption is an all-encompassing concern in the residential water treatment industry, as it is one of the highest operating costs for businesses with multiple vehicles. In fact, idling a vehicle excessively (five or more minutes) can increase fuel consumption by four to five percent. Idling results in lost profits and can potentially damage engines over time, so it’s crucial to ensure drivers practice efficient driving habits. By allowing drivers to make additional stops on their route, revenue increases and customer satisfaction remains high. Long gone are the days when drivers called into the office lost and in need of directions or encountered heavy traffic. Cutting down driving time by creating optimized routes allows for a cost saving that helps grow the bottom line.
Driver efficiency and safety
Driver efficiency tends to be somewhat of a manual process, as the task of switching drivers from one vehicle to another can be complicated when factoring in changes in vehicle check-ins with every shift. This process can be simplified by implementing a tool allowing drivers to quickly check in and associate themselves with their vehicle. Regardless of how many drivers or shifts operate a particular vehicle, technology provides management with accurate driver-based reporting. After implementing a fleet and asset-tracking platform, drivers can service on-the-fly customer requests with ease. When a customer calls in with an emergency service request, dispatch can assign the emergency and inform a driver with turn-by-turn voice directions, regardless of the driver’s current location. This eliminates distraction and maintains the utmost level of driver safety. Dispatchers are appropriately notified once the destination is reached, and customer service can follow up to ensure complete satisfaction. Fluidity and flexibility are key factors for exceptional customer service, and thanks to a fleet tracking platform, this is not just a possibility, but a reality.
Sub-par customer service leads to a damaged reputation and loss of business. A critical component to running a successful service business includes showing up on time for appointments. Fleet tracking solutions provide tools that help businesses increase on-time arrivals when used properly. If customer expectations are met, they have no reason to switch providers. Additionally, the solution allows dispatch to monitor driver whereabouts, enabling a quick resolution of customer disputes. Resolving a customer dispute without proper documentation of the length of appointment time is difficult. For this reason, it’s important to know where drivers are and for how long. In a competitive industry where service companies are looking for ways to stand out and keep customers happy, this is an attainable leverage point.
A window into operations makes it clear what’s working and what’s not. Accurate reporting allows for capabilities including a start/stop report which serves as a virtual timecard, making payroll validation simple. Idle reports allow for the reduction of harmful emissions and fuel expense. The reporting capability provides a wealth of information and valuable insight at a moment’s notice. Perhaps most importantly, the collected data is actionable, meaning the information gleaned can be put to use to improve processes. Accurate reporting allows service businesses to be decisive—a capability crucial to maintaining profitability and customer satisfaction.
Determining the right partner
Fleet and asset tracking functionality gives service businesses transparency and ease of use, yet choosing the right provider is just as important as the platform itself. The ability to access the location of a vehicle within seconds maximizes the benefits to a business and in turn, its customers, but means nothing if the provider’s application experiences downtime. Be sure to choose an established provider with a cloud-based application that can guarantee 99.999-percent uptime, to ensure no unexpected outages. Just as important is a provider that manufactures their own devices, meaning they control the quality of their hardware and pledge industry-leading reliability. They should service utility companies both large and small, and provide the resources to properly train staff while still offering 24/7 customer service.
Utilizing fleet and asset tracking solutions to automate manual business processes saves time and money, especially for those in the service industry. It enables them to operate proficiently, while giving the tangible benefits of an uptick in the bottom line and an improvement in overall customer experiences. The right GPS fleet and asset-tracking platform can be the one-stop-shop for maximizing operations.
About the author
Ashley Jones is Marketing Director at NexTraq, the value leader of GPS vehicle tracking and fleet management solutions. Prior to joining NexTraq in 2010, Jones served as Marketing & Communications Specialist for Stonebranch, a workload automations solutions provider. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism with a focus on public relations from the University of Tennessee.