We interview Kathryn Schifferle, CEO of Work Truck Solutions, the first online commercial vehicle inventory solution that enables commercial dealerships to display and search truck inventory by chassis and body type.
This creates a simplified process for finding, quoting and floor planning work trucks. Kathryn says, “…when a fleet buyer comes to the dealer’s website, they can actually look through images and spec information and see what is available, so they are better prepared and educated when they walk through the dealership’s doors. There are spec sheets attached, there are video walk-throughs — buyers can reach out directly and have a conversation with the dealer. Electronically they can even indicate the stock number, so the dealer will know the specific inventory with which the buyer is interested. It is really a time saver.”
How did you get into this industry?
Strangely enough it is because of my publishing background. There was a publisher out of Ohio who just started publishing a magazine called Ford Pros. The intention of the magazine was for it to be the magazine of the National Ford Truck Club. The founder of FordPros, Joe Hughes, was introduced to me by the publisher. I fell in love with this industry. I came out of the cable television industry and honestly never looked back. The people in the work truck industry are nice, they are honorable, and they compete fairly. They really are just salt of the earth kind of people and as I started learning more about the industry, and helping Joe with building the association and publishing the magazine, I just really, really enjoyed it.
After a few years, Joe shared with me that when a plumber would come into the dealership where he worked, there was no up-fitted plumber’s truck ready and available for him on the lot. Joe had to get on the phone and start calling other dealers. And I said, “Give me a couple of weeks and I will figure out how you search for that truck online and then I will teach you how to do it.” Two months later I came back to him and I said, “I don’t believe it. There is no way to do this. There is no way to find a finished work truck or even any information about them online.” And that is when we started working toward what is today known as Work Truck Solutions.
So, you definitely had an ‘aha’ moment a few years ago when you decided to make this happen.
Yeah, and one of the ‘aha’ moments was talking to Steve Carey at the NTEA about the market itself and all of the players. In talking to him I realized that the entire industry had a hard time knowing who their customers even were because the finished truck was never “captured.” As a result, these dealerships didn’t know what people were buying, which means they couldn’t know their customers.
Tell us, from a fleet manager’s perspective, how does Work Truck Solutions work?
In today’s market, if a person is looking for a new car, often the first thing they do is go online before they even step a foot on the showroom floor. Work Truck Solutions brings that same methodology to the commercial work truck buyer. The buyer wants to see details like chassis style, options, model number, even the manufacturer information online.
We aggregate that information to implement and enhance the content value. We work with all of the large and regional body manufacturers to make sure that when a fleet buyer comes to the dealer’s website, they can actually look through images and spec information and see what is available, so they are better prepared and educated when they walk through the dealership’s doors. There are spec sheets attached, there are video walk-throughs — buyers can reach out directly and have a conversation with the dealer. Electronically they can even indicate the stock number, so the dealer will know the specific inventory with which the buyer is interested. It is really a time saver.
I was just speaking with one of our first dealership clients the other day and I asked him what he saw as the biggest benefits of our system. He said, “Well, for me and for our dealership, two big wins. One, we are now seeing what people are searching for and two, you know, it took a little while because our customers didn’t expect to have a tool like this, but now they use it. They use it to save time, they use it to communicate with us, and they really love it.”
And you know, to me that was a wonderful moment, because that was our end goal.
It has got to be a nice feeling once you know that it works.
Yeah, and you know, we have added some things that help. For instance, we created our Dealer Trade Network. We began hearing from dealers that tracking down a specific work truck is a really cumbersome, phone-intensive, frustrating process. With the Dealer Trade Network, dealers have total control over their entire inventory and they can easily tag trucks that they want to put into the trade network. When they tag a work truck, they have indicated to the world they are willing to trade for it and other dealers have access to that inventory. In fact, other dealers can show that tagged inventory on their own website. The network creates a more collaborative, solution-oriented experience.
And many people looking for work trucks might need it almost right away. And if they all that sort of up-fitting needs to happen then they are going to have to allow some time that they weren’t planning to.
Exactly, and that is kind of like the heartbeat of the whole thing. We want to banish some of the time wasters and get some of the access issues taken care of. And of course, we are now scaling very quickly. In just the last three months we increased our dealer base by 80 percent. We are working with Ford, GM, Isuzu and Chrysler and they all co-op our product at 50 percent for participating dealers. We’re also showing inventory for some Nissan dealers and we are working with all of the major OEMs to continue to add them into the program. So, between the co-op promotions and word-of-mouth about how much time Work Truck Solutions saves fleet managers, we’re scaling very quickly.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Work Truck Solutions?
I am most proud of solving problems for the dealers and the customers both. It is a mutually beneficial adoption of technology.
What Feedback Have you Heard from Fleet Managers?
In addition to dealers telling me that their customers love it and it saves them lots of time and makes it more accurate in solving their problems, I have also heard a lot of great feedback from dealerships that have fewer than 20 trucks in their fleet. These operations do not have dedicated people doing research and locating trucks. So, it is a big deal for them to have something that helps them research and discover the work trucks they need quickly. With our reports, these smaller fleets can even see what the majority of their work truck buyers are looking for, so it even helps them forecast.
How do you see digital marketing affecting the fleet industry in the next year?
I would say in the next year we will see more quality information about products surface and a streamlined approach to accessing that information. I think it will take more than a year for the system to start evolving into a better supply chain, but certainly a goal of ours is to help the stakeholders find more efficient ways of using data to be smarter.
There are so many companies that have multiple roles. So, you will have a company that will have a distributor and a body manufacturer and maybe they even do a little fleet management. And then over here you will have a fleet management company who has a relationship with a different distributor. I think it is nice for everybody to have somebody that can help leverage creating good relationships and some kind of positive forward motion with technology.
Is there anything else that you feel like we need to cover?
You know, I think one thing I always say to everybody is that as a company and as a CEO we are ultimately curious and interested in hearing people’s problems. I’d like to extend an open invitation to anybody who has a problem in their company that relates to commercial vehicles to give me a call and say: “do you know if this exists?”
Kathryn Schifferle is the Founder of Work Truck Solutions; for questions, or your input on what you want as a truck buyer, please contact her at Kathryn.firstname.lastname@example.org. Work Truck Solutions is the first online commercial vehicle inventory solution that enables commercial dealerships to display and search truck inventory by chassis and body type. This creates a simplified process for finding, quoting and floor planning work trucks. Work Truck Solutions is growing at a rapid rate and is gaining success with OEMs, fleet management companies, body manufacturers and individual dealerships across the country.