Elite Support grows across Daimler network

Elite Support, the joint service initiative from Daimler Trucks and Buses Australia and the Daimler Truck dealer network, is being rolled out under the guidance of Matt Smedley, the company’s new Head of Network Development.

Appointed to the role in May, Smedley, who headed up Elite Support in North America, addressed media yesterday from Daimler Trucks Laverton, the latest dealership to participate in Elite Support certification.

Smedley described Elite Support as being a new way of allowing Daimler to service its customers in Australia.

“It’s about recognising the customers in order to realise we all have a part to play. It’s not just about amazing products but about having excellent customer support and service,” he said.

The process to become Elite Support certified takes 12 to 18 months according to Smedley. Daimler Somerton and West Orange are the first two dealerships in Australia to have been certified. 14 other dealers out of a network of 60 were currently involved in one of the stages of the certification process.

Smedley anticipated the numbers would increase over the next year.

“Daimler does not dictate a time line in which to become certified. The key is for it to be sustainable with the dealership and really focused on continuous improvement,” he said.

Initial certification is an on-site assessment at once of processes, people, facility and the culture. Subsequent to that is monthly and quarterly reporting, with dealers subject to spot checks any time. Dealers are expected to take responsibility for self-policing.

The dealership team attends a two-day boot camp where they assess and identify an action plan for strategic growth with a Continuous Improvement Coordinator. Following that they bring the message to their individual departments.

“It’s trying to be as comprehensive as we can but not trying to be Big Brother. They know when they are serving their customers well and it’s only as strong as the weakest link,” said Smedley.

Dealers then use the new tools they have learned independent of the criteria.

Key criteria involved the ability to make an express assessment in which customers can, upon arrival, make critical business decisions within two hours. Other areas of focus under Elite Support include comeback vehicle priority, front counter parts, physical signage, process and culture.

Culture according to Smedley was vital to Elite Support.

“A customer-focused culture will become an excellent partner to the businesses that run Australia and run the world. It’s important to have a culture that believes in a customer focused way of doing business,” he said.

“We don’t want to see customers wondering what has happened. While they’re waiting they should be in a comfortable area so that when they do get their truck back they’re ready to go and make money again and serve their own customers.”

Dealers who are Elite Support certified in North America are more profitable than their peers said Smedley.

“They are better enabled at managing their business, tackling problems and using continuous improvement (CI) tools to improve the customer experience.”

Using continuous improvement mindsets helped solve problems that had plagued some dealerships in North America for generations said Smedley. Because of this Elite Support didn’t need to offer incentives to businesses when all they needed to do is consult their balance sheet.

“It’s a legacy we’re leaving with our partners, our brands and also to the industry.”

In North America where Daimler has over 500 dealerships nearly 280 of those are currently certified under Elite Support. It represents close to 90 per cent of the volume of the Freightliner and Western Star dealers across the United States and Canada.

With Freightliner holding four per cent of the market in Australia, Smedley said Elite Support was not market share dependent. Nine years on from its proof of concept in North America, Smedley expects there will be a faster uptake in the Australian market.

“With the North American market being a larger test bed this market can be more nimble because we have fewer locations and frankly a lot more enthusiasm,” he said.

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