Delivery & Installation, Operations, V7I4

Shed Haulers: Most Important Customer Service Reps?

(Photo courtesy of Mervin Vargas/United Shed Transport)

Shed haulers are the unsung heroes of the shed industry. 

It’s important that builders treat haulers well and make them a part of your team. They are the last encounter your customer will have with your company. 

So, it’s vital that they have the information and ability to perform at a level you and your customer expect. If they can’t or won’t, your company is passing up a chance to create long-term customer goodwill. 

But how can builders and haulers work together to make the delivery and on-site customer service second to none?

Shed Builder Magazine heard from four veteran shed haulers on this subject: Martin Hostetler with Maco Transport in Montezuma, Georgia; Mervin Miller of Miller Express in Blackville, South Carolina; Lane Frazer from TexShed Transport in Brookhaven, Mississippi; and Mervin Vargas with United Shed Transport in Covington, Texas.

How do you define the role of a shed hauler both in terms of deliveries and customer service?

HOSTETLER: The shed hauler is very important because he is the last leg of the sale. He can leave the customer happy or with a sour taste.

FRAZER: The role of a hauler and/or his company is to deliver and install the storage building. Seems simple enough, but they also need to have a good set of customer service skills. 

As a hauler, we are the last contact with the customer in their transaction with the building/sales company. In my opinion, we as haulers are the most memorable part of the whole transaction whether it is a positive or negative experience. 

MILLER: The role of a shed hauler is to deliver the product to the customer in a timely fashion and to do it with a professional attitude (regardless of the customer’s response).

VARGAS: A shed hauler’s role is to deliver sheds to dealers and customers with the highest level of professionalism, working through difficult situations that come up through the delivery and providing a top level of customer service.

This includes going above and beyond what is required by the manufactures to provide a stellar experience for the customer. It all starts with the proper expectation at the point of sale and through the manufacturing process. 

What qualities does a hauler need to have? How about a hauling business?

HOSTETLER: Understanding your equipment, taking care of it, and being good with backing a truck and trailer. Being able to evaluate how to do the job and good communication skills. 

The hauling business also needs good communication and good equipment. It needs to have the willingness to listen to the employees.

MILLER: A hauler needs to be professional and courteous at all times (on the phone and in-person). A hauling business needs to conduct all operations with total professionalism and must be great in its communication with both customers and builders.

VARGAS: A hauler’s qualities should include cares about customer service and satisfaction and being patient, efficient, and ambitious. They also should be willing to go the second mile, honest, timely, and able to think outside the box.

Hauling businesses should always be looking for an area to improve. They need to be organized and have solid skills in organization, time management, communication, and problem-solving. They also need to have the ability to learn from mistakes and be ambitious, flexible, creative, and have integrity.

How can builders better work with haulers?

HOSTETLER: It’s very important for builders to work closely with haulers. It makes scheduling and delivery much smoother, and that takes communication.

FRAZER: I believe the building shop and the haulers need to have a bond of a sort and stand behind one another through good and bad. 

In my experience, you get better results across the board if you and your shop are a team. I think the shop, although they build for a living, should be more open to advice or constructive criticism from the haulers. 

The haulers are the ones truly testing the product, and if a simple change can make the process easier for all involved, it should be taken into consideration. 

MILLER: Builders need to work with haulers in order to smoothly transition the process from order to dealer to customer. In my opinion, if builders could easily update available orders/inventory that is ready-to-haul, that would be awesome!

VARGAS: As a manufacturer or a driver, we need to work very closely together if we want to succeed in the business. We can’t forget the fact that we as a hauler need the manufacturer just as much as the manufacturer needs us haulers. Why? There’s a lot of stuff that, if we work closely, it will make life easier on everyone. 

Like in life, we normally can’t see where we’re failing unless someone tells us about it, so we need each other. Working closely with each other we can improve quality, timeliness, communication, and the list goes on. 

I do think manufacturers should stop throwing money at issues instead of working together to fix the issue. They need to accept responsibility when needed instead of blaming everyone or somebody. Finally, they have to have good communication with haulers. 

How can haulers best be trained in the area of customer service?

HOSTETLER: They should be trained to be professional and courteous. They can watch videos and ride with a shed hauler for two weeks.

FRAZER: I think customer service skills are something either you have or don’t. No classroom or workshop is going to teach you good customer service skills for haulers; it’s a controlled environment. 

Haulers have the most stressful part of the whole “shed experience,” meeting deadlines, customer and company expectations, and delivery challenges. With that, no training is going to stick in the “heat of the moment,” but I feel like most of your “customer service” stems from respect for the customer and the respect for the company you haul for. 

MILLER: Customer service is a skill that needs to be developed over time, and proper training is essential. The way we do it is to send new drivers with seasoned drivers for a minimum of two weeks so they can observe customer interaction

VARGAS: Drivers should ride with a driver who has been proven to master customer service for at least two weeks. As a hauler boss/manager be always on the lookout for signs of a lack of better customer service and address it right away instead of hoping it will fix itself.

What are the strengths of shed haulers (and the industry overall)?

HOSTETLER: Being able to think outside the box.

FRAZER: Well, shed haulers are the best bottom line! In all seriousness, haulers are the ones that make it happen, the ability to adapt  and overcome new challenges and changes in the normal day-to-day operations. 

MILLER: I am slightly biased on this one—I think shed haulers are some of the hardest working, well-rounded individuals in the market. They need to be drivers, dispatchers, counselors, retrieval experts, delivery experts, intermediaries, problem solvers, outside-the-box thinkers, etc., etc., etc.

What are their weaknesses? What challenges do they face? How can those challenges be overcome?

HOSTETLER: Customers, weather, barns not being done, salespeople promising the customer when they get the barn, no site check (prep), gates, overhang of house, trees. 

Salesman training and communication can help overcome these hauler challenges.

FRAZER: Most every hauler I know, their biggest weakness is feeling they have underperformed. They all strive to be 110 percent better than the day before. 

You also face some that are torn with stress, some that are away from their loved ones, others plagued with equipment failures. It all takes a toll on your day-to-day performance. 

Some haulers will take their weaknesses and build on them and that’s what makes them better haulers. 

VARGAS: Some haulers can think their time is worth more than anyone else’s time—forgetting to have a team player mentality. 

One challenge comes when a salesman/manufacturer overpromises and expects drivers to just deal with it. Another is that they are not backing the driver up when customers are trying to get something for free and throws the driver under the bus.

To overcome this, drivers need to work on or make sure they build a good relationship with the salesman/manufacturer. Also, accept responsibility when you do screw up.

Speaking of errors what are common mistakes rookie and veteran haulers make? How can those mistakes be avoided by training (either from the builder or fellow haulers)?

HOSTETLER: I’ve seen rookies trying to do it like somebody else and not respecting the equipment (Hi-Lift Jack, Mule, or trailer). 

These mistakes can be avoided by figuring out what works best for you and riding with an experienced hauler.

FRAZER: The most common mistakes I’ve seen have been caused by being in a hurry and rushing through the process. 

I feel that instead of teaching someone how to haul buildings you should spend a fair amount of time teaching the “rookie” haulers the equipment and what you can or can’t do with it. I think if a person understands the equipment they use they can develop a game plan to get the task completed. 

MILLER: Not paying proper attention to the load and not thinking through the situation with customer service. A minimum of two weeks of training with a veteran driver can alleviate a lot of that. 

The main mistake I see in veteran drivers is complacency; they get too comfortable in what they have been doing for so long that a minor oversight can become a major problem.

What makes a hauler good, better, best?

HOSTETLER: Having an open mind and learning every day. Going to the BBQs and the Bash, and watching fellow haulers

FRAZER: No number of buildings or amount of miles you drive makes you better than the next. The deciding factor in that is your ability to think outside the box and get your task completed in a timely and safe manner. 

Also, the ability to learn from your mistakes will set you apart from others. 

What’s your vision of the future of shed haulers?

HOSTETLER: That everyone helps each other and we work together.

FRAZER: I feel like the future for shed haulers hangs in the balance of the younger generation. The workforce is dwindling down every day; shed haulers are getting hard to find. 

Without the younger generation stepping up and willing to learn this trade the coming years will be tough for these looking to employ experienced shed haulers.    

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Hauling Equipment Conundrum, Dec. 9, 2020

Q&A: Shed Transportation and Delivery, May 1, 2019

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