Conti Shows the “Way Forward” with Expanded Portfolio
As reported in Tyres & Accessories’ October edition (see page 14), at the start of September a further thirteen European countries were added to the 24 national markets where Continental’s mobility offer has operated since February. The product, known as Conti360° Fleet Services, is specifically aimed at fleets operating across national borders and includes five components that cover the spectrum of fleet operator needs.
“Our ContiBreakdownService, extended on September 1, is currently the densest network for breakdown services currently in existence,” states Dr. Michael Korpiun Continental’s marketing and fleet sales director EMEA. “We complement this with what we call the Conti360 partner network in the heart of Europe, who offer full service packages including the ContiFitmentService and ContiFleetCheck.” This partner network operates in Continental’s eight key European markets – Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic – and currently around 2,500 partners have been accredited. Throughout the coming year other markets will be drawn into the partner network, including Ireland, Scandinavia, Austria and Switzerland.
Continental says it has been very selective when it comes to taking new partners on board for its growing network. “We have set very clear service quality standards that we want our service partners to carry our in terms of service of international, pan-European and national key customers,” Korpiun adds. “To back this up we are implementing KPI (key performance indicator) pan-European measurements to check service performance. This is made visible not only to key customers but also to the service provider so they see immediately their rank within the total network in order to improve their quality and performance.”
In addition to evaluating the ability of potential partners to perform work to Conti standards, Continental has also measured its own service portfolio standards against customer expectations. Earlier this year management consulting firm Oliver Wyman conducted a study that surveyed more than 2,300 truck customers in ten European countries. Continental was privy to the findings before its public release on September 23, and reports that the “European Truck Customer 2010” study shows the company is “meeting the demands of the market precisely” with its five-prong service portfolio. Alongside the ContiBreakdownService, ContiFitmentService and ContiFleetCheck products already noted by Dr. Korpiun, the Conti360° Fleet Services portfolio includes ContiFleetReporting, which is an online-based analysis of a fleet’s tyres that identifies areas for optimisation or where money can be saved, and ContiCasingManagement, Continental’s used tyre collection, casing inspection and purchasing service.
“We have responded to these customer priorities,” stated Dr. Korpiun the day before the report’s official release. Continental, the marketing and fleet sales director explained, has focused on a number of areas important to fleet users, such as speed of deployment – Continental guarantees that, depending on the region, its ContiBreakdownService will have a vehicle back on the road after three or four hours (the UK belongs to this first group, and currently British customers and others within the region can look forward to a turnaround of two hours and 38 minutes).
How does Continental guarantee these turnaround times? “We expect our partners to have minimum stocks available in order to have the right product in place in case of breakdown. That is also tracked by our KPIs,” Korpiun points out. “In addition, since the first of February we have been working from a pan-European call centre in Munich that services not only breakdowns but also regular services from just one source. Why is that important? Because all these customers no longer have to deal with different call centres all over Europe, different languages and, in the case of breakdowns, they have to be coordinated but they are all coming from one centre.” Continental reports that the call centre, which can answer calls in all of the native languages spoken in the 37 member countries, aims to treat 80 per cent of all cases within 20 seconds. As of September 2010 84 per cent of cases are being handled within this timeframe; thus the central call centre is not just more convenient for the customer, it also whittles precious time from the response turnaround period.
The European Truck Customer 2010 study identifies speed of deployment and minimal downtimes as customers’ most important mobility criteria, with service quality a close third. Continental says it is addressing service quality – and at the same time “significantly” accelerating completion of service – through introducing the online administration of service cases. “We have the target, by the end of 2010, of 80 per cent of all our cases administered electronically through a web-based platform, currently we have achieved 48 per cent year to date,” reports Korpiun. “Why is this important? If there is a breakdown, the owner of the vehicle can see instantly was has happened to his truck, what measures were taken – it is no longer acceptable that this information is not available weeks after a breakdown. Speed and accuracy of information is vital.”
In addition to getting vehicles underway again within a short timeframe, Korpiun explains that Continental strives to reduce downtime through educating its fleet customers on best practice and range of products through ContiFleetCheck and ContiFitmentService: “Ninety per cent of tyre failure is caused by under or over inflation, so working together with key customers to prevent breakdown is an essential part of our offer. Obviously, related to minimising tyre downtime is the safety of tyres per se. You probably know already that last we’ve started rolling out the second generation goods tyre in the market place with quite substantial improvements in tyre quality. We are proud to say that not only the HDR2 which in the meantime has become perceived as an industry benchmark but also the new coming HD Hybrid which we are launching, is expected to be a top seller.”
This new tyre is a product Continental describes as being “developed for purely economic reasons.” Elaborating on this, the tyre maker says the demand for more economy due to growing cost pressure in European road freight transport doesn’t stop with truck-trailers that were previously exclusively used in long-distance transport – combined transport assignments are increasingly on the agenda. The HD Hybrid, therefore, has been designed for long-distance applications with long rolling stretches and also for regional transport on varied road surfaces. This versatility is said to come through the tyre’s tread design, which features a mixed rib/block tread. As a plus, the HD Hybrid is said to offer 20 per cent better mileage that Continental’s HDR2.
Other products Continental offers its fleet customers include its ContiRe range of retreads plus a non-tyre innovation – the VDO digital tachograph. Dr. Korpiun explains: “One thing that is new in recent years is the linking of digital tachograph information with fleet services. Because all the information that comes from the digital tachograph can be used to service fleets, for example with mileage service contracts, to link all the information available to find a better way of servicing.” With the aid of peripheral devices and software, data is automatically transferred from the digital tachograph in a truck’s cab to the fleet’s central computer. A detailed evaluation of this data is then possible, enabling the fleet to potentially increase its efficiency.
When the factors covered here are utilised together, Continental believes the package they create is a winning combination. “In the search for the lowest possible operating and kilometre costs for commercial vehicles, it is not only the product that decides, but also the services that are linked to it and tailored for it,” Dr. Korpiun reflects. “So we believe that investing in service quality, and not only looking at the excellence of products, but in combination, is the way forward and the strategically correct position in order to attract pan-European business and to respond to increasing demands.”