Getting to know Brett Willburn, Director of Customer Service.

Brett interview Transcript 2:


What’s your title and what do you do here on a daily basis at Total?

I’m Brett Wilburn, Director of Customer Service. On a daily basis, our department’s goal is to make sure we have the right freight and enough freight for our fleet, as well as our Brokerage, Dedicated, and Logistics divisions to accomplish our goals for that day, week, and the year ahead. I also oversee the management training program as well.


How long have you been with Total? Please tell us a little bit about what you did before you came here.

In June I will have been with TOTAL for 6 years. I came over from Bush Brothers and Co. where I’d spent about seven years. I worked in operations on the shipper side and then eventually supply chain management. I joined TOTAL in June of 2013 as National Account Manager. I was really brought on board to help develop the Amazon account. I’ve been in my current role now for almost three years. I actually got my start in the business with International Paper and UPS, two of our current customers.


What do you want the drivers to know about what you and your department do? How does what you do directly affect them?

Everything we do is with the driver in mind. We’re responsible for making sure that that our drivers stay as busy as they want to stay, that they’re not having to ask for freight, they’re not having to ask for pickup numbers, and they’ve got the right information in front of them to have a safe and successful trip. That’s our end goal. We want each driver pre planned on a load, to understand where they’re going, and that they’ll have a next load. They can’t have any stress about our side of the business so they can just focus on their professional tasks.

Communication is key. When drivers communicate issues early and often we have the ability on our end to possibly change the delivery appointment without further delays.  We don’t have to yard the load and incur any additional cost or stress on the driver. If they communicate ahead of time with their fleet manager and their point of contact, we can notify the customer and start working on solutions. This keeps the customers happy and they keep giving us freight.


How many people are in your department?

Currently we have 20 people, from national account managers to customer service reps and nights & weekend staff in order to cover the needs of the company. That number has actually decreased over the last several years. As we’ve integrated new technologies, we’ve been able to transition people into other departments where they can be more productive.


So what is your short term objective for the next year and how do you plan to facilitate that?

We like to set a pretty aggressive goal for the three divisions I mentioned earlier, Brokerage, Dedicated and our OTR fleet. My group is also responsible for booking all that freight. We’ve tracked the data from past years and know the number of loads that we need to obtain the desired growth. There is a lot of consistent communication and work with the sales guys and Operations. We understand the needs we have, where we can go, and what levers to pull. For the first quarter, our goal was putting out 3800 loads, but by the fourth quarter, that should be up to 4200. That should help us with the growth that we have in Dedicated, OTR, and Logistics, all 3.


What do you find is your department’s greatest challenge?

In a word “flexibility.” I think one of the biggest challenges that we face is just making sure that we’re staying in front of that next wave of change, whether that’s weather, customer switches, or different things that we’ve done throughout the years. Deciding what levers we can pull in front of those changes and keeping our heads on a swivel day in and day out is a big task. We’ve got to do that while also looking weeks, months, and years out. It’s not easy and it’s something we continually try to get better at.


How do you know what levers to pull?

We’ve embraced data and technology over gut feelings, emotions, and opinions. It’s numbers, it’s data, and it’s applying the analytics to our network and specific customers that’s really what’s moved the needle and given us the opportunity to be more efficient. Being able to bring the facts to the table and say “Okay, you know this is where we need to go, this is what we’re missing,” then be able to provide the right direction. It’s a lot easier to get people on board and help them understand where we need to go when you can prove it.


What do you think your greatest strength is for your department?

Our ability to understand all that data and take the appropriate action may not be our greatest strength yet but it’s where we’ve improved the most in 2-3 years. Understanding how to read, understand, and use that data and the technology to make better decisions for our company is high up there. Knowing whether that’s the correct rate, where to go, and when to go has been some of our biggest wins and growth in the last 3 years. We’ve also been able to automate different functions throughout the customer service role. From load tracking to automatic accepting and declining of certain freight. That’s allowed us to be more efficient in load booking and going after better rates for it as well.


What are what are your plans for the years to come for both you personally and to drive the department?

I want to make sure that everyone has the right tools to do their job. We need to keep adding different tools to our belt so they can be more efficient, better at their job and better for TOTAL. We have got to keep helping our people grow to what they want to become and to where they want to go. We want to become a manager lead department where they understand the triggers to pull. They understand the data, they’re really able to understand what the driver needs and stay ahead of that a little more. That’s something that we continue to work on developing, new talent, better talent, not only for our department but for TOTAL in general.


You mentioned the Management Training Program, can you tell us more about that?

Yeah, that’s something that I probably will always be involved in. It’s a 16 week, hands on mentored program designed to get them familiar with every phase of our operation. At the end of the program the trainee is placed in the most appropriate positioned suited to their skill set. We’ve had about 15 people go through the program to date and bout 70% have stayed long term. We’ve worked very closely with the University of Tennessee and participated in mentor programs. Our involvement with the Haslam College of Business is very important.  


Tell us a little about your Family and what do you do for fun?

I’m from Tennessee and went to The University of Tennessee. I live in Maryville, TN with my beautiful wife Alisha and two amazing girls, Bryn, 9 and Charlotte, 4.  As for hobbies, I’m big into cycling. My goal is to ride 1500 miles a year and I do a pretty good job of that. Typically I’m hitting around 1200 to 1300 miles a year. Right now so I’m trying to push that goal. I’m actually going to Belgium in April to do a hundred mile ride with friends.


What do you love about trucking or what do you love about this industry and TOTAL?

 Having experienced both the shipper and the trucking side, I really do enjoy the trucking side more. I enjoy the ability to work with customer’s supply chains for the betterment of all involved. On the shipper side I got to manipulate my own supply chain and now I get to work with some of the biggest companies in the world. I really enjoy providing those different solutions.  The best part is I get to do it working for a company like TOTAL. Like so many here, I really appreciate our culture. We have a very special group of people here that want to learn and grow. Over the years we’ve had both drivers and support staff leave for various reasons only to later come back to us. I think that’s as good an endorsement as we can get. I take pride in helping people grow and accomplish their goals, it’s what gets me up and in here each day.

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