Star Freightlines: Customers come first

In survey after survey, people complain that customer service in Australia is still not up to scratch, complaints are not handled well and the service provided is not keeping up with increasing customer demand. In WA’s trucking scene, however, one forward-thinking business is making a stand against automated phone answering software and internet-based client interaction – boldly putting personal service back on the agenda.

Rob Egbert, Managing Director of Canning Vale-based transport business Star Freightlines, is the brain behind Perth’s new ‘people first’ movement. To him, providing personalised service is the key to succeeding in a contested marketplace like WA. “Our aim is to continue building our business by maintaining a close association with each and every client and providing a service that many a large fleet may not be able to provide anymore,” he says. “Put simply, we want to offer a service that’s better than anything you’ve ever experienced before.”

According to Rob, the secret of service excellence is that it requires a complete approach – clear and consistent leadership from the top, the right culture, great people and premium equipment. In that sense, Star Freightlines’ focus on “good, old” personal interaction is no contradiction to embracing technological progress.

The 17-strong all-Mack fleet is turned over every 800,000km – which can equate to less than three years per truck on the long and straining Perth-to-Pilbara run – and is solely fuelled by BP to ensure maximum performance in every condition.
“I like to think that we still care about the freight we transport, and that involves using the best equipment and fuel that’s available in the market. That’s why we only run refrigerated transport equipment by FTE, for instance, and that’s we have forged such a close relationship with BP for the last decade as well.”

While it’s fair to say the transport game is all about minimizing fuel usage and maximizing mileage, Rob is aware of the fact that maintaining a healthy business relationship with a fuel company can make a real difference. “I always have the feeling we are talking at eye level when we negotiate pricing,” he says. “They are always willing to talk and speak the same language in terms of customer service.”

Rob himself, for instance, is still very much the frontline employee he used to be when he set up the business back in 1996 – close to the client, well-informed on what’s going on in the industry and always available to discuss a problem.

“While service can sound like an ambiguous term, your customers inherently know whether you deliver great service or not,” he explains. “In the current business environment, we see businesses wage an on-going battle to beat customer expectations, learn to love new technologies and use customer service as a competitive differentiator. The question is how you manage to deal with it.” 

While some try to replace personal customer interaction with new technology, Rob has learned how to utilise technological progress to enhance Star Freightlines’ customer service. “The challenge is that companies must maintain service standards in the face of ‘the need for speed’, and I think that’s what we’re good at. Our entire fleet is GPS-tracked so every client can obtain real-time information on what’s going on out in the field, our equipment is the best there is and we only use premium fuel – but we also pick up the phone ourselves when you call in and you don’t have to press ‘1’ three times before you talk to a real person.”

Established in January 1996 with that exact vision in mind, Star Freightlines has become an ‘expert’ in connecting metro Perth and the booming Pilbara region. Still family-owned, it has grown from a ‘one-man-no-truck’ business transporting fresh fish from Point Samson to Perth into a 30 staff company carting refrigerated and general freight from and to the mining capital on a daily basis.

“Our dedication to providing a customer friendly service, competitive rates, a reliable pick up and delivery service and the ability to remain adaptable has allowed us to grow steadily since day one, and we are now supported by more than 220 regular customers to whom we take pride in providing our personal touch,” says Rob, who can draw on decades of experience in WA’s mining and transport industry before setting up Star Freightlines.

“Indirectly we have certainly benefitted from the mining boom, as the need for fresh produce and general freight out in the Pilbara has risen dramatically over the past decade,” he says. “But a lot of people tried to ride that wave without success – and I believe that’s because they didn’t how to build and maintain good, old customer service.”

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