UniCarriers Americas (UCA) strives for continuous improvement for all its operations. For the last year, the company aimed to improve the truck sales process to provide a more personalized experience, in which the goal was for UCA dealers to have an internal resource advocate for them.
To help achieve this goal, UCA recently realigned its inside sales group, now known as the Truck Sales Support Team. Several steps were taken to help guide this journey. Using a value stream map activity, a lean methodology tool, UCA gathered a large cross-functional team and spent three days looking at its current sales process to identify waste. The team also created a future state vision of what the process should look like and then completed a gap analysis to pinpoint areas of opportunity for improvement, including response time and availability.
Before the realignment, duties were segmented throughout the department. Now, there is a single point of contact for each dealer, what UCA describes as “an extension” of the regional sales managers (RSMs) that aligns with the current territory structure. Reflecting on their expanded role, sales representatives are now referred to as account coordinators. And through this new structure, UCA has been able to load balance for increased efficiency.
Mary Gatlin, Senior Manager of Sales Administration for UCA, said they looked both internally and externally for improvement opportunities and evaluated the entire sales process, from start to finish. “Starting at order intake through the receipt of a credit, we identified 56 opportunities we could tackle through kaizen,” said Gatlin. “These changes focused around process, policy and technology enhancements. We wanted to make the whole team more customer focused, so we could strengthen and nurture the relationship between each dealer and account coordinator.”
UCA’s continuous improvement philosophy motivates the company to address certain opportunities that will be impactful for its dealers. Gatlin states that by identifying the different kaizen opportunities, that UCA inherently becomes more dedicated, efficient and reliable throughout the entire truck sales process as the company works to build a customer centric organization.
Service enhancements include extended hours for extra coverage and to allow for more proactive communication. The realignment also contributes to improved timeline for Truck Modification Request (TMR) processes.
“Load balancing within the department has lessened the time it takes for trucks to go through the TMR process,” said Gatlin.
By assigning a territory to each account coordinator, there is fundamentally more accountability that improves the dealers’ experiences significantly. Don Hannan, sales manager for M&L Industries says it’s refreshing to have someone answer the phone 9 out of 10 times and to not leave a voice message. “It allows me to receive the answers I need, when I need them, so I can better serve our customers.”
Beyond providing extended hours and a dedicated account coordinator, UCA is ensuring that the team can start to recognize ordering patterns. Sara Dewey, Hannon’s UCA account coordinator, is tracking, updating and fulfilling order requests. “As the units ship, Sara is sending an updated spreadsheet showing which units have shipped and others that are green-tagged and ready to ship. It normally takes me hours to make these types of changes, and the fact that she does this for me, but seems genuinely pleased to do so, has helped tremendously,” said Hannan.
Spencer Whitt, President of A.M. Davis Inc., echoes Hannan’s sentiments toward the service enhancements. “The realignment has provided a team approach with inside sales, the RSM and the dealer all working together. We can go to one person who is familiar with our orders, and we don’t have to bring them up to speed on certain questions.”
“Now, we have someone that is more familiar with our account, and I truly feel UCA has our back,” Whitt adds.
Whitt says looking for timely answers for a variety of needs that arise is an important part to the puzzle. “Just as we are relationship builders in our market, I feel the same applies to the manufacturer. I can tell you that the attention I’ve received so far from my account coordinator and RSM has matched up the level of service we extend to our customers. The realignment and new relationship have worked well for A.M. Davis,” Whitt concludes.
UCA will continue to pursue and advance its service offerings through continuous improvement activities. “Nineteen kaizen items have been completed at this point, and there’s still a lot more work to do. This is just the tip of the iceberg; we’re not stopping and continuing our lean mindset,” Gatlin concludes.
Stay tuned for more enhancements.