Make drivers feel valued

Listen: Chandler Concrete, a producer based in Burlington, N.C., and Harrison Construction Co.'s concrete division in Knoxville, Tenn., have programs in place to listen to their drivers. Driver mentors serve as liaisons, assuring that their ideas, as well as challenges, are heard using a formal process. Owners and managers also play a huge role in the listening process.

Owners Ted and Bob Chandler visit plants routinely, asking drivers for ideas to improve. Big believers in “managing by walking around,” no driver is excluded from this process. At Harrison, in addition to listening while visiting plants, managers also survey their drivers on their own ideas and views.

Inform: Real information, not vague chatter about how the economy is affecting the company, is critical. Clueing in the drivers in a factual way is imperative. Both Harrison and Chandler communicate job statistics, future outlooks, why specific decisions are being made, and the costs of mistakes to their drivers. The underlying principle behind communicating to the drivers is respect: Reasonable people with the same information will arrive at the same conclusion when given a chance.

Recognize: Recognition was a major theme for drivers from both companies. Driver of the Quarter or Driver of the Year recognition programs are in place. Harrison also has a customer service program to recognize drivers for levels of achievement. Each level is accompanied by recognition and sometimes a reward. Chandler hosts a driver rodeo and sponsors the winning participant in state and national competitions.

Educate: Both Chandler and Harrison continue to make significant investments in educating their drivers. One third of Chandler's drivers have completed the NRMCA Concrete Delivery Certification program and regularly participate in ACI classes. Harrison's drivers recently finished a driver-specific customer service boot camp where each attendee received 7.5 hours of training. Both producers also hold weekly brief training huddles on safety, customer relationships, and product knowledge.

Commit to Equipment: Both companies pride themselves in maintaining a fleet of safe, mechanically sound, clean trucks that represent their companies and drivers well.

When companies invest in their drivers through communication, recognition, education, and a commitment to excellent equipment, the drivers, in turn, feel valued and perform at a higher level. This is a departure from the past and a strategic advantage for the future.

What would happen if your company gave customers what they wanted, not merely what they expected, via a distinctly better driver experience? There would be an explosion of advocacy for your company, an improvement in loyalty to your company, and many, many touchdowns.

Joan Fox is a customer experience consultant to the Ready-Mix industry and a popular conference speaker: 513-793-9582,

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