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June 01 2017
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

EvoBus (UK): Backing up promises to operators

A vehicle is nothing without effective aftersales support, and to allow it to deliver that in as effective a manner as possible, EvoBus (UK) is in the process of spending a lot of money on a back-up network

Operator, supplier and dealer: Eve Coaches, EvoBus (UK) and Western

Selling new coaches is one thing, but without suitable aftersales support, history shows that things unravel fast.

EvoBus (UK) delivered almost 300 Mercedes-Benz Tourismos last year, and it is committed to backing up every coach and bus that it has in the market to the same standard.

That’s wise, because never before have operators had such a choice. Dunbar-based Eve Coaches runs two Tourismos, and to Managing Director Gary Scougall, backup is a major part of the buying process.

“Bad coaches don’t exist nowadays; instead, what’s between them is how they are supported,” he says.

Eve’s Tourismos may work locally one day and head for Europe the next. That mandates a comprehensive back-up network, particularly as curing defects is often as much about diagnosis as it is rectification.

EvoBus is on side with that, and it is investing a huge amount into supporting its customers. It tailors support to suit the operator, with a focus on relationships and specialist mobile technicians.

Serious support for customers

EvoBus has well-equipped premises in Coventry, but Customer Service and Parts Director Andrew Howes says that it is working ever more closely with the country-wide network of Mercedes-Benz dealers.

“We have greatly expanded the specialist mobile support coverage,” he says. Area Sales Managers are traditionally buyers’ first port of call when a problem arises, but that burden is being moved to road-based Customer Service Managers (CSMs), of which there are three.

Fixing problems is not their primary role; that is being ‘devolved’ to dealer level, but CSMs are able to begin the process. Both parties have access to EvoBus’s technical specialists for major head-scratchers.

With local service partners is where EvoBus is making its biggest investment, and that is no more evident than at the Edinburgh branch of Western Commercials, which supports Eve’s Tourismos.

“There are several steps to bringing our service partners in-line,” says Andrew, including training and auditing. EvoBus has also made a significant contribution by placing consignment stock with partners, and it regularly reviews stockholdings to ensure that they are aligned with vehicles in each area.

In Scotland, EvoBus already has a strong relationship with Western, something that it is proactively establishing with all other franchised partners.

But what’s involved, and how does that benefit an operator that just wants its coaches on the road and earning money?

Western Commercials has the first EvoBus (UK)-supplied service van

Building blocks

The most noticeable aspect of EvoBus’s relationship with Western Commercials is the service van that it has supplied.

The van is strictly a coach and bus maintenance vehicle and it may not be used on other duties. It is equipped accordingly and seven more identically-configured vans will enter service elsewhere.

To accompany the van, Western has a dedicated mobile coach and bus technician, Ross Meechan.

The ‘man on the ground’, Ross has received training from EvoBus and he is also competent in PCV-specific items from other suppliers, such as ZF.

“Ross will soon be joined by another coach and bus specialist at Western who will receive the same training,” says Andrew. “The scheme will extend to the rest of the UK and Ireland, allowing us to support all of our customers better.”

Availability of Ross as a specialist mobile technician has worked well for Eve, says Gary. “We had a problem with an alternator in one Tourismo and Ross came to Dunbar that night and changed it. As a result, the coach was back in service the next day.

“Back-up is very important. In the past we had coaches from another chassis manufacturer that I sold at less than two years old. They weren’t bad vehicles, but the support was shocking.

“For other marques, we used to keep a lot of stock, but with the Tourismos we don’t need to. I call Western and it does the rest.”

Stock held by service partners suits the coaches and buses on its ‘patch’, says Andrew, while the dedicated service vans are equipped with £16,000-worth of components that may be required in the field.

Why the change?

Why is EvoBus making such changes to its support network? It’s to ensure that the huge growth in volumes seen over recent years is sustained, says Andrew.

“We recognised a need to improve aftersales, and to do that we must support our dealer partners to enable them to deliver the best service. We’re keen to develop repair and maintenance contracts in the future because that will expose service partners to more coaches, furthering their skills.”

Arguably key to the whole process is increased visibility of technicians to customers. That includes Ross, the ‘man in a van’, and Customer Service Managers and Key Account Managers, all of whom are mobile and encouraged to build relationships with operators.

In the pilot with Western, this is all working well, and the same standard of support will expand to the rest of the UK and Ireland soon.

The last word goes to Gary. “Would I buy another Tourismo? Yes, because the back-up is there. We had a small number of niggles, but they were dealt with rapidly. For me, EvoBus has gone to the top of the class for customer support.”

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