Many towing companies do not have a lot of experience in evaluating alternative tow management solutions (TMS) for their business. There is no shortage of software options from which to choose, which further complicates the task. And, successfully making the “right” choice for your business is very different than, for example, buying trucks where you can “kick the tires”, and readily compare specifications.
Those that do have experience in making TMS decisions have often learned the hard way, and are now seeking to upgrade. Jordan Peterson has noted: ” ….success may be a mystery, but failure is generally not …. ” So, what might be learned from those that have the experience? The following themes reflect what we hear in talking with customers who are considering an upgrade to Ranger.
#1 – “We were hoping for a good result, but should have clarified expectations upfront and in writing.” As with most other heavily used services, it is prudent to get a contract or services agreement. The most important elements:
- For “cloud” offerings, will you have access to your information if you ever decide to switch to a different TMS? It is NOT just about data. To be useful, you will need ongoing access to the provider’s software and reports so that you can retrieve needed business information – at a nominal cost. Get it in writing.
- Documenting the functionality to be delivered – get the list. Unfortunately, some providers promote “vapor ware” – functionality that is not ready for “prime time”. Getting “all that we offer” sounds great, but lacks needed specificity.
- Clarifying pricing and support to avoid surprises. For example, does pricing include the cost of GPS services – hardware, airtime, and reporting? Are there upfront costs – and if so, what support is included, and if not, is it DIY
- What is the reliability of the system? Two indicators: 1.) How often has the TMS system been down for more than 15 minutes in the last 12 months? ; 2.) Is there a separate data center for disaster recovery, and how long would it take to “fail-over”?
#2 – “We cruised past the assessment of pricing capabilities, and missed finding the treasure below the surface.” Pricing in towing and recovery is much more complicated than in most other industries. The TMS should provide capabilities that enable both process efficiencies and revenue gains with improvement opportunities that span Owners and Dispatchers and Drivers:
- Owners: Frequently rate structures are designed to be straightforward for the accounting process. With the TMS doing the heavy lifting, the opportunities for more robust approaches to increase revenue should expand – for example: day/night/weekend rates along with added extras for services delivered, such as safety flares, cleanup, fender pulls, batteries, installed parts used in a repair, etc.
- Dispatchers: Rates are often negotiated by account, and in those cases consistency is essential. Flipping through a rate book is a bad answer – rates should be pre-configured by account. For motor club calls, there is frequently the complexity of adding “over-mileage”. And in other cases, dispatchers may need to develop/send a quote in advance, or to set pricing “real-time” for a Cash call based on time/weather/capacity. Be sure to get the needed flexibility.
- Drivers: Ideally, drivers should be part of the process – from pre-authorizing credit cards at Arrived to clearing calls with payments collected on-scene. Be sure account-specific pricing formulas are being sent to the device with flexibility for drivers to modify as appropriate – including extras, mileage, and labor. The app on the device should do all of the calculations (not drivers or dispatchers). Differentiated permissions for drivers are helpful as in some cases drivers can clear calls independently, whereas in others, pricing modifications should go back to Dispatch for approval.
#3 – “We placed too much emphasis on placating the ‘resistance’, rather than building the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.” There are always practical implementation concerns – e.g., dispatchers that are not computer savvy, or “old school” drivers. However, questions to think through:
- Are the expressed concerns a lack of ability, or fear of change? Our experience suggests that it is the latter. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Don’t settle – build skills. Develop a “work-around”. Consider driver incentives for professional growth.
- Does the TMS provider offer a robust training program? For example, Ranger will provide ongoing, personalized “OTJ training” as employees continue to become more proficient. Recognizing how adults learn, Ranger also has a portfolio of over 40 training videos for self-paced instruction, and a demo app for drivers.
#4 – “We got comfortable that the basics were OK, but have since discovered that handling the ‘tough stuff’ is what is most critical. We don’t want to work for the technology – the technology has to work for us.” Every tow management solution on the market provides a capability for dispatch – which is obviously important. But, productivity hinges on deeper, cross-functional capabilities fostering teamwork among dispatchers, drivers, and accountants. In the words of one customer: “Misses on needed functionality is like having a shirt without a pocket”. Some differentiators would include: how easy is it to:
- Handle recoveries – multiple trucks/jobs on one invoice, with a large number of extras (where pricing may vary for private accounts vs. the police)?
- Choose from multiple options to match the operation of the QuickBooks link to your accounting processes?
- Manage port-to-port assignments where the truck may not be departing from and/or returning to the port (base)?
Assign drivers/trucks to a job from the map (drag & drop) based on a view of ALL OPEN JOBS and ALL TRUCKS THAT ARE SOON TO BE AVAILABLE?
- Create and dispatch swaps (good unit, bad unit), and retows from the lot?
- Pinpoint the location of stranded motorists, and automatically send those coordinates to the driver’s mobile device for navigation to the exact location?
- Get advance indication – before “Dropped” – when a driver is soon to be available for another call?
- Confirm (100%) that drivers have received a call assignment – no calling or texts?
- Collect on-site customer signatures for: Consent to Tow, Financial Responsibility, Acknowledgement of Pre-existing Damage – and print these on the invoice?
- Combine pictures of the vehicle while in the lot with those taken when it was towed?
- Prevent drivers from running up airtime costs – e.g., by downloading videos and/or surfing the web?
#5 – “We put together ‘piece parts’ that were workable for the short-term, but wish we would have built on a stronger foundation with options for the future.”
The first key consideration is integration – each “bolt-on” adds complexity and creates productivity losses and errors – e.g., information disconnects and/or reentry of data
- Does the TMS have fully integrated GPS tracking and mapping capabilities (built on Google maps) – NOT a separate bolt-on product from a provider with a different name?
- Does the TMS offer integrated credit card processing capability – both on the driver’s device and for dispatch/accounting?
The second key consideration is looking ahead – business strategy is about creating options for future growth and the TMS plays an important role. With capabilities for transport/hauling operations management, and private property enforcement, Ranger is a solution you can grow into and never grow out of.
If you would like to avoid these mistakes and are interested in more information contact us for a free demo!