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True Grit

HOW READING TRUCK BODY TRANSFORMED ITS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Since joining Reading Truck Group less than one year ago, current president and COO, Alan Farash, has been on a mission to help revitalize the company’s approach to customer experience. In this article, Alan shares Reading’s experience developing a customer experience improvement campaign that ties a brand promise to real changes in business operations and real results for customers.

Driven by grit. Outside Reading Truck Group, it’s easy to see how that could sound like a few nice words to tack above our name. But it means something very personal to the people building our truck bodies.

Those words are actually the driving principle behind the overhaul of our entire customer experience at Reading and the inspiration for changes in the way we operate. Those three words have helped us organize ourselves around a shared goal of reestablishing customer confidence.

Driven by grit means perseverance. It means refusing to quit. It’s never yielding and resolving to push ahead. When I became president of Reading Truck Group in September, we were at a low point. We struggled to keep our commitments to customers and maintain the quality we prided ourselves upon for decades. The challenges we faced to turn things around were numerous and complicated. The only way through it was to face each problem with grit and determination. We applied the driven by grit mantra to our business to reduce chokepoints and live up to our 65-year legacy of service.

HOW WE BUILD

We instituted practices that help keep orders on track and ensure we’re monitoring our performance daily. Our teams meet in the “War Room” daily to review their progress against performance standards. Our people are encouraged to identify problem areas, forecast for the future, and prioritize improvement. I believe you can’t manage what you can’t measure, therefore we use visualization boards that display our performance metrics on the factory floor and the corporate office. These boards paint a picture of each team’s performance on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. What it takes to sustain these practices is a never-quit attitude and a drive to improve every day. But first, we had to establish a culture where everyone felt like they were part of the solution.

Better communication between teams gives a feeling of shared responsibility, so we sought to improve coordination and communication between departments that have a major impact on customer satisfaction. We restructured our load building, shipping, and customer service teams so they could more easily work together to meet deadlines and improve communication with customers. In another instance, we revamped our internal tracking system to make it easier to monitor the status of bodies made by the manufacturing team and specialized parts for those bodies from the engineering team.

These practices resulted in a substantial improvement in customer fulfillment times. We’re shipping more efficiently, production timelines on bodies and their accessory parts are aligning more closely, and we’re currently able to ship many engineered bodies ahead of schedule.

WHAT WE BUILD

We took to heart the lessons learned from the past and adopted rigorous design and testing procedures to create reliable new products. Now our engineering team leverages solid modeling and analytical tools paired with extensive physical testing to validate the durability and reliability of new designs.

Those changes were combined with a renewed focus on our customers. We constantly listen for ways to improve. We learned the customers desired new products that aligned with their needs. As a result, we completely restructured our product development process to take the voice of the customer into consideration earlier and more consistently throughout product development. That in conjunction with an established product management process resulted in on-time delivery of new products for our customers’ specific needs.

WHO BUILDS IT

To truly infuse driven by grit into the way we do business, we had to make it an overt part of our culture. What helped us was the fact that everyone at Reading already believed in it—they simply needed tools to help them realize it in their work. Many of the tools and tactics we enabled are intended to help do that.

Daily management techniques encourage our people to embrace grit every day. We need to come face-to-face with our obstacles before we can overcome them. More importantly, we must do it consistently. Embracing grit also means paying attention to numerous small details that make a big difference when producing thousands of truck bodies per month. Finally, in order to have a top tier company you have to have top tier employees. So, we’re reinvesting in our existing staff through training as well as hiring the best talent we can find.

I’m incredibly proud of these changes, which are the result of so much hard work and dedication from the team at Reading. Their relentless pursuit to improve our customer experience is what it truly means to be driven by grit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alan Farash is the president and COO of Reading Truck Group.
Alan has over 30 years of experience serving in executive leadership roles for various vehicle manufacturing organizations. Find out more, visit www.readingbody.com.

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