How to Get (And Keep) Fleet Work
In the quick maintenance world, fleet work is a great way to secure regular, repeat business.
The vehicles used by city and government workers, police, and a variety of others like landscapers, construction companies, private security, and transport services all log countless miles on the road, translating to a steady stream of routine maintenance and service work. Many fleet operators prefer to take their business to one shop, presenting owners with the unique opportunity to become a fleet’s go-to service provider.
But what’s the best way to go about attracting fleet work to your business? And how can you ensure they keep coming back?
Bob Tewes Jr., owner and general manager of Car Care Clinic in Mississippi, says the key is building relationships, not collecting contracts.
“Having a dedicated salesperson working toward acquiring fleet contracts never panned out for me,” says Tewes. “Our fleet business is the direct result of building relationships with existing customers and earning a reputation of excellence. It’s a lot like being a doctor, lawyer, dentist, or anything like that…once people find one they like, they stick with you.”
And stick with him they certainly have. Since Tewes’ father opened the first Car Care Clinic in 1977, the business has grown to include 14 locations, making it the largest independent, privately-owned chain of lube and repair shops in Mississippi.
Tewes estimates that fleet maintenance makes up somewhere between 10% and 20% of his business revenue, depending on the location, and he secures fleet work the same way he does any other job—by building lasting relationships based on high quality work, reliability, and trust. Establish a reputation for excellence in the community and the work will come to you, he says.
“Do good, quality work, no exceptions—people learn about your reputation and when they become dissatisfied with who they’re currently using, they’ll come to you,” he says. “You gain fleet work from your regular business. It’s all in how you take care of problems and run your operation.”
And, while fleet work is an important segment of his business, Tewes warns fellow owners not to put all their eggs in the fleet basket.
“We take care of all of our customers equally,” Tewes says. “We don’t prioritize our fleet work over our other customers. We certainly do everything in our power to make sure they have the best experience possible, and provide them with added value wherever we can, but we don’t neglect our other jobs to do it.”
When it comes to building the kind of long-lasting customer relationships that act as the foundation for your business, there’s one very important thing to keep in mind, according to Tewes.
“It’s not about what’s right or wrong,” he says, “all that matters is what the customer thinks is right or wrong.”
Tewes always makes it a point to work with customers to solve problems in a way that will earn their repeat business and encourages fellow shop owners to do the same…fleet customer or not.
“You have to think strategically, think of the long game,” he says. “A small cost in the short term is worth the business you’ll keep in the future.”
Tewes recalled an example of a time when his team was flushing the transmission in an old truck, only to have the pump explode and ruin it. While it was simply a timing issue and not the fault of anyone on his team, he still worked with the customer to procure a used transmission and replaced it for a fraction of the cost they would have paid elsewhere simply because it was the right thing to do.
Those solutions build bonds between customers and your shops, and they build your reputation in the community, says Tewes. It’s especially important in this day and age, when everything winds up being an online review. Tewes doesn’t sweat that much, though, acknowledging that even the best shops don’t have a perfect 5-star Google rating.
Another key to success?
“When you deal with people, never use tomorrow’s money…always use yesterday’s,” he advises.
Not only is it important that your fleet customers pay on time, the same is true for you and your business debts, says Tewes. It’s a source of pride for him that he has a reputation amongst his business associates for paying all his bills immediately. He knows it’s the reason he never has trouble finding people willing to work with him, and he’s even gained customers because of it.
“Pay your own bills on time, then when those people need work they’ll come find you,” he says.
He also expects the same level of dependability from his fleet customers in return.
“Before you take on fleet work, do your due diligence and make sure they can pay you. Consider things like how long they’ve been in business, and what sort of reputation they have in the community.”
Tewes maintains his fleet relationships the same way he does any other customer relationship: by giving them the best possible experience in his shops and making sure they know they’re valued.
He offers a 10% discount to fleets and finds every opportunity he can to “plus” their service and go above and beyond for them. But again, Tewes reiterates, don’t cater to your fleet business to the detriment of your other work.
“Some people want to be moved to the front of the line…don’t do that,” he says. “Don’t prioritize fleet work over your other customers. Give them the extras and do everything you can to keep them happy, but don’t compromise other jobs in the process.”
Building relationships on solid business principles won’t just secure fleet work—it’ll keep the regular customers coming through the door, too. And the longer customers stay with you, fleet or otherwise, the more stable your business will become.
“Earn your customer’s business and take care of them,” says Tewes, “that’s all there is to it. You never know when a CEO of a company with 100 cars is going to walk in your shop and need something done to his car. The bottom line is this: Fleet customers are like regular customers. You earn their business through your reputation.”