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Basildon - Dynamic deals, soft service

17/12/2018 | General

Transition

Since taking on the Pirtek Harlow franchise, Colin May Franchisee of Pirtek Basildon has been building a collaborative atmosphere, working with his two centre managers, Greg Foxon and Graham Pearce to apply an even greater can-do working culture at his second centre. I caught the team of franchisee and centre managers as Greg made his first visit to the Harlow centre. Colin’s foray into multi-centre ownership began earlier this year when he purchased the Pirtek Harlow franchise.

Colin says, “You ask yourself, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I’d always said a second centre would be on my target list so when one came up, and a neighbouring centre at that, it seemed… go for it. “Yes. there’s fear. Yes, it feels like you’re taking a leap, but I got home the evening after I’d spoken to the then licensee and I said to my wife, ‘Look, this has come up. Of course there are reservations but, you know what, I’m going into it and my mindset will be, let’s see what hurdles present themselves.’”

It sounds as if there would have been a slim chance of holding Colin back as he said to his wife “If we manage to clear those hurdles, then we’ll be there.” “From that conversation until eight and a half weeks later, no great hurdles had presented themselves that I couldn't get over and we were set to go." That was in April. In that time, Colin has made a big impression on his new centre manager and MSSTs.

Team effort

Graham Pearce, who has been Centre Manager at Pirtek Harlow since mid-2017 says, “It’s great to have a positive force behind us, driving us all – from the managers, to the admin staff to the engineers. “We’ve put changes in place here, meaning we work in exactly the same way as Basildon. Anybody could step straight out of Basildon into the Harlow depot and it would run the same way. Accounts and ordering now work in the same way over both centres, we work as one – almost like a six-van enterprise.” Graham is more ambitious than that, however. “I’d like to see four vans running out of both centres. I think the work’s there, you’ve just got to go and find it.” Greg Foxon, Centre Manager of Pirtek Basildon says, “The transition has been very smooth – and I think that’s down to Colin, his positives filter down through me to the guys. I've spoken to a couple of people here in Harlow and they've said it's a great environment to be in already. 

“It feels like a family business. It’s a close-knit team we’ve got, with both experience and new blood. The way Colin’s built the business at Basildon, he’s made everyone’s little bit of the business their own. The MSSTs have their vans. That’s what they take care of and have pride in.” Responding to his centre managers, Colin chips in, “I think it’s really important that these guys take ownership of their centres. They work there and should feel like it’s their team. These are the people that make it run every day so they have to take ownership of it. The same goes for the MSSTs taking ownership of the vans.”

The team are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Greg says, "The role of MSSTs can be undervalued and under appreciated - even by themselves. It's important for us to recognise that tasks they face every day, but they need to recognise their value too. “You’re taking a broken piece of equipment and making it work – it’s an important job. Once the MSSTs recognise that they start to think, ‘What else can I do to add value to the service I give?’ 

Regarding his own work, Greg says, “I treat my work with Pirtek Basildon as if it were my own business. Colin and I have got a very close working relationship. We have always spoken a lot, he has the final say of course, but we run the centre between us. I don’t just turn up for work. I go to work and I enjoy every day I do.” “Harlow was a decision we talked about of course. It will have an influence on Basildon because he will be spread between two places but it will also add a new dynamic to the team.”

Soft service

Soft service is the buzzword in the Pirtek family. Colin explains, “We recognise the importance of the  MSST going to site, replacing the hoses, getting the ticket signed off and ensuring that the customer on site is happy. 

“Equally important is ensuring the individual who placed that call is happy. “It might be a plant hire company that we’re dealing with, a manager who isn’t in direct contact with us. So the user on site contacts that manager and says ‘Help, there’s a problem, can you fix it?’ That manager would then call Pirtek to get us to attend. “On receiving that call, our first action is to dispatch the technician and ring the site to tell them the job’s in our hands.

“We now have an automatic text service, so when we log the job the site contact  will get an SMS to say the technician is on the way. We used to pick the phone up to ring them up and tell them. “What we’re trying to do is ensure that once the job’s complete, if there’s any issue on site that needs to be referred to the office, that happens in a quick and timely manner. “It’s not just about the man or woman on site using the equipment. It’s about ensuring that we feed all the necessary information back to the office

“This soft service is all part of the job. Service is not about just one aspect of the job. It’s about all aspects. It’s trying to raise the bar for us and make sure we’re giving customers the value they deserve. “Pirtek’s not just about a piece of rubber hose, it’s about a service.” According to Colin, he has a loyal customer base, though they are always looking for new business. "Most of the work we do is for known customers though a small percentage is individuals searching Google for someone to "fix my hose".

"Their service experience will determine whether they phone us again. It's for us to show that they should contact us. The only way to do that is to make sure we deliver, even when you're at the top of your game, you have to stay focused and recognise that there will always be improvements to be made. Communication with the customer is key. “I often think, ‘Could we have done that job any differently, could we have done any better?’, always looking to make incremental improvements to the customer’s experience. “We’re not perfect and, as with anything, there will be some mistakes. You’ve just got to recognise it, rectify it and not do it again in the future.”

Colin is clear that the buck stops with him. “If we’re repeating a mistake, it’s my responsibility to pick it up, deal with it and find an answer. If it’s an operational thing it might be something for the centre manager to recognise. 

“We’re constantly trying to improve, constantly evolving. There’s no presumption we’ve got it right, ever. “What you’re competing on is service. From a customer’s perspective, that’s what makes us different. “It’s the customer’s perception that determines who’s number one. We have to deliver every time someone picks up the phone. It’s not about my expectations, or the technician’s expectations. It’s about meeting and exceeding the expectations of the

customer, how they feel you’re delivering the service and whether you are delivering value for money.”  Customer feedback is critical to these ever-improving standards. “If my phone rings and a customer says, ‘You’ve got it wrong,’ my attitude is, ‘Thank you very much for bringing it to my attention and let’s go away and try to do it better.’”

Going the extra mile

Another factor that Pirtek Basildon emphasises is going the extra mile  to provide a service, even when it is impossible to fulfil the initial requirement. Graham says, “We go out of our way to help the customer. Even if you attend a job and you can’t fix the machine, you might be able to do something else that helps the customer. You may be able to offer advice such as to keep more spares on the vehicle or onsite, which you can supply, to minimise downtime and reduce costs."

Greg agrees, “I’ve said to my MSSTs “When you go out to a job, if it’s something that we don’t normally do, you’re unsure or if there’s a safety issue, don’t say ‘Sorry, we can’t do this job,’ say ‘This is the issue we’re facing and this is what we’re going to need to take it further. How can we help?’”

One respect in which Pirtek Basildon and Harlow can provide an extended service is through Total Hose Management. Graham says, “One simple thing we can do is tagging hoses with Pirtek labels saying, ‘This hose was visually inspected on this date.’ It takes the onus off them to find faults, saves the customers money and keeps them happy. “In the not too distant future, a dedicated van doing air conditioning recharging, hydraulic flushing and Total Hose Management would be good,” says Graham. “It’s all about broadening what we do for customers – Pirtek is ‘not just a hose company’. For automotive air conditioning recharging we can go out and replace air con hoses and then top up the system and give them a full recharge."

The last five per cent

Colin May’s franchises are a dynamic concern, constantly looking for ways in which to develop their service offering and improve upon their delivery. “That’s the ethos we’ve been trying to get across at Basildon and now at Harlow too. It’s the last five per cent that makes a difference,” Colin concludes.

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