Archive for September, 2011
By Susan “Dawdles” Durstine
“Get you in and get you rolling” is the philosophy of the Pilot/Flying J Corporation, according to customer service supervisor Shane Bulloch. In an All Drivers Together conference call Wednesday September 28, Mr. Bulloch went on to explain that the company understands that if drivers are not rolling, they are not making money. He further explained Pilot/Flying J’s philosophy of “fast, friendly and clean” works in order to facilitate “drivers needs on the road, getting them through their daily travels” and providing DEF, showers and meals.
Over 30 drivers participated in the call and asked questions of various topics including parking issues, maintenance of the facility and lots, and spent several minutes directly speaking about the meal choices available at the locations. The Denny’s restaurants, he explained are privately owned franchises or company stores; none of which are owned by the travel center chain. They do, however, own the franchise rights to many of the fast food establishments in the locations. Pilot/Flying J does offer a wide variety of food options, Mr. Bulloch explained, but sit-down restaurants are not feasible for the corporation because of the profit margin available in fast food. McDonald’s is the only fast food establishment not franchised by the travel center. “If you see a McDonald’s, it is because it our only option,” he stated. The locations also offer the pizza and hot deli bar options for drivers, again with the idea of getting the driver in and out quickly.
While listening to drivers concerns, Mr. Bulloch did recognize the fact communication levels between the customer service department and the locations was in need of improvement as was the customer service level in the store. Currently, the new associates undergo computer based training when they are hired and they also undergo hospitality training. In an effort to train new hires, the corporation attempts to “give a store experience” but admits they have not thought of providing a “trucker experience” point of view. He also stated he would meet with the customer service representatives in order for them to better understand what drivers do and the things they experience on the road. In order to improve customer service at the corporate level, his department has grown from six representatives to 14, and has implemented new technology to improve the experience when drivers call.
During the hour and half conference call, Mr. Bulloch did note several improvements that the travel center chain has made and noted plans for the future. Such improvements include the new shower systems and improved shower experience, improved kiosk technology, reopening the Mystery Driver survey program, hot deli bars, Bulk DEF dispensers and they have recently begun to install pet friendly areas and have signed an agreement with Snap Fitness for the installation of fitness areas in select locations. They are also working on scan sensor technology that would allow a driver to purchase fuel without ever having to swipe a fuel card. Other plans for the future include “going back to focusing on the Pilots and focusing on the brands to make them stronger”, stated Mr. Bulloch.
Mr. Bulloch encouraged drivers to work with local management if they have a concern since so many issues seem to be site to site. If, after working with the local management, drivers choose to contact the corporate office, they can do so by calling 800-562-6210 and following the recorded prompts (Option 3 will connect the driver to a representative). Normal operating hours are 8am to 8pm Eastern Standard Time; however, a driver can leave a comment in a voice mail box after hours and will be contacted the following business day. Mr. Bulloch further stated the customer service department does have set protocol in dealing with driver’s issues, including conference calls with the management staff and the driver.
Pilot Flying J completed their merger June 30, 2010 and created a network of 550 travel centers throughout the country. Mr. Bulloch has been with the company for 12 years and has worked his way up to his current position starting his career at the store level.
I am stopped at the Travel Center of America in Terrell, Texas. I like to come here any time I have to hang out in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex area to get away from the city, and because they have concrete for a parking lot instead of asphalt. The air is cooler in the summer time with concrete.
I unloaded Wednesday and might have stayed at the drivers in Anna, but the lure of the free showers and a restraunt I have been eating at for years drew me out here to Terrell. I did enjoy the shower, and the wait staff and cooks at the restaurant are still doing a pretty good job of keeping the food from being boring.
Something new has appeared here, and I talked to the employee who services it. In fact he said he had only installed it a few days ago, so I took pictures and made a small video. TCA has listened to pet owing truck drivers and at least in this location is beginning to crate a “pet area”.
I asked about plans and was told it will have fescue grass and that grass will be watered. I asked if he knew of any plans to put a chain link fence around it with gates so that drivers could take their pets off leash, but he did not think they were going to fence the area. I didn’t ask if they had thought of bordering the grass area with shade trees, maybe they will think of it, after all if they are going to put in sprinklers for the grass they could get some crab apple trees pretty cheap around here. Crab apple seems to be the shade tree of choice around Dallas.
My hat is off to the management at TCA they have with this one little post and those plans to plant grass proven to every driver with a pet that they are listening.