The first priority of a truck owner or operator is to make sure their vehicles run reliably and stay on the road as scheduled. Here we introduce two members of the UD Road Support Service team, Hiroshima customer center manager Yuji Ota, and mechanic Atsushi Kouge. They are part of a nationwide network that deals with vehicle issues on the ground 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in collaboration with the Uptime Support Center.
Tell us about your job and how you collaborate with the Uptime Support Center?
Ota: Within our network we have Road Support Services, which works in collaboration with the Uptime Support Center. We provide service during the night time hours and holidays when the customer center is closed. Road Support Services require a combination of technical knowhow and good communication skills. While our customers and their type of work varies, what they all have in common is the need for assistance in the event of vehicle trouble. Our people need to deal with not only the truck but the feelings of the driver. That’s why communication skills are so important.
Kouge: Almost all customer center locations in Japan close at 5:30 pm and the Uptime Support Center handles calls after that. One thing I enjoy when assigned to Road Support Services is the interaction with customers. Mechanics are usually stationed inside the workshop and do not receive compliments directly from our customers. When I repair a vehicle in the field or find that I have no choice but to have it towed back to the workshop, the driver is usually very grateful for my efforts. That is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
The job seems to have unique challenges. Can you share some examples?
Kouge: I was first assigned for road support services in my second year at UD Trucks. I remember my first night shift vividly. I received five calls that night and was on the go for the entire shift. Also, vehicles today are more electronically complex, which makes it harder to understand the problem at first glance. Another challenge is that we work right in front of our customers on the road. We can only rely on ourselves and that does add some pressure. But the more experience I get, the better I can deal with almost any emergency situation. I believe that experience as a mechanic has really improved my skills, both technically and with people.
Ota: We have eight mechanics that can handle road support cases from the Hiroshima customer center. That means they get assigned that shift about once a week. We have more repairs related to electric issues these days and only mechanics who can run diagnostics on computers can be assigned. Such mechanics with skills and experience are essential.
Kouge: We have to use our knowledge and experience to predict outcomes and bring all necessary parts and tools with us. Simply speculating what needs to be done from customer call can be risky. We have to think beyond what the customer conveyed in their call, so that we do not make them wait while we go back to the workshop to get necessary parts.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
Ota: To be honest, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our team of mechanics in Japan have not really been adversely affected. We still provide road support while communicating directly with customers. However, we are all of course are more mindful in the field, always wearing a mask and being aware of physical distancing for example.
Kouge: I feel much the same. Coronavirus has triggered changes in the way people live and behave, and that has somewhat affected the interactions between us and customers. What has not changed is doing our upmost to support our customers and how we can best support them on-site in a timely and professional way.
What challenges and opportunities do you see in the new normal?
Ota: I think all UD gemba colleagues want to go the extra mile in providing support that meets or exceeds the expectations of each and every customer. We all want see our customer’s vehicle back on the road as soon as possible and take pride in a job well done. This is an ongoing challenge and we are ready to meet it!
Kouge: I think there is an opportunity to improve the overall level of service across Japan. While it is difficult to deal with all the vehicles in the same manner, especially in regions that are particularly busy, I believe that if we can work to provide the same level of service for all customers nationwide, our reputation as a service leader will be further enhanced.
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