CHICAGO — Bob Doran, routing specialist for Alsco, a linen and uniform rental service headquartered in Salt Lake City, says the most important part of running laundry/linen service delivery routes is providing customers with the best products and service requested safely and efficiently.
“Of course making complete deliveries with quality products as promised will always be extremely important, but we also expect our customer sales representatives to maintain the highest level of communications with all of their customers,” adds Jeff Nelson a director of operations at Prudential Overall Supply, a provider of uniforms and reusable textiles with a corporate office in Irvine, California.
“So often, our ability to retain customers boils down to the relationship between our representative and our customer’s staff.”
To accomplish these goals, route reps/drivers need the latest technology, and the proper training.
As technology moves forward and information available increases, one of the most significant changes Nelson has seen in the role of a driver recently is improved tools to monitor safety—not only in terms of such things as ergonomics and safe behavior. He says that the company’s ability to monitor driving safety has increased tenfold.
“When we consider the type of driving we do where we’re in city traffic and in and out of very tight parking lots, safe driving behaviors are extremely important and now we have the means in which to monitor those behaviors,” he shares.
Doran points out that the role of the driver is no longer just delivery and pickup. The emphasis is on service.
“I once had a service manager who frequently said, “I need you to service the account, not just be a delivery person. I can get a chimp to do that!’” he shares.
“Route persons are asked to do so much more, from better communication between themselves and the customer to anticipating the needs of the customer, inventory control, assuring the product is delivered in the best condition in a safe efficient manner—all while operating the route safely.”
To train drivers on route technology, Doran suggests that if the branch is using a GPS program, study the data and optimize the route if possible.
“For the branches just using the routing software, perform the route in the manner provided by the program,” he says. “It is easy for some route persons to go back to old habits, which can cost branches in the end.”
“Whenever Prudential contracts with a company offering updated technology, a part of that agreement includes a significant number of hours of training provided by the experts who developed the technology,” shares Nelson.
“We as an organization have also created some additional positions and hired staff whose responsibilities include monitoring the new technology and identifying those who may require additional training and focus.”
Beyond training on new technology, route drivers also need effective training on other factors, such as efficient vehicle operation and customer service.
“That begins from day one when once hired, our drivers complete an intense, eight-week training program that includes all of the above and then some,” Nelson shares.
Once completed, he says the leadership team conducts hundreds of “route observations” every year, where the representative is evaluated on about 30 separate items. The route observation includes evaluations of all the previously mentioned elements.
“Another effective method to identify those customer sales representatives requiring additional training is our internal customer visitation process where our leadership team evaluates the condition of the account and meets with the key contact to gain their perspective of our level of service,” Nelson adds. “We also make use of an outside company that conducts over-the-phone interviews with each of our customers once per year.”
Doran recommends a laundry insist the route person run the route in the manner provided by the software.
“It has taken into consideration the most efficient manner to perform the route in an effort to save as much fuel and route labor as possible,” he points out. “There are always issues that arise after a reroute has been performed. There can be a need to adjust due to the issue.”
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