Hi Mike, tell us what your title is and what that means you do day-to-day with Total.
I recently transitioned into the role of Director of Customer Service in March 2019. Previously I had worked as Director of Load Planning and Director of Freight Balance. My primary job is to manage our customer service team. We are tasked with ensuring that we have enough freight to move all of our assets profitably, handle all day to day customer facing functions, and provide support to our sales and pricing teams.
How does what you do directly affect our drivers day to day job?
We are challenged daily with piecing together our freight network within our customer base so that we have enough loads to keep our drivers planned and moving. In certain market conditions, this means leveraging personal relationships with customers to secure more business or soliciting broker freight. Ultimately, our trucks moving and drivers getting miles begins with us-if we are in a freight deficit in any given region, it is our responsibility to make the necessary corrections.
How long have you been with Total and how did you come to work here?
I began with TOTAL in 2010. At the time, I had 8 years of previous transportation experience in both the truck and rail space. After relocating to Knoxville I discovered TOTAL. During my time here I have had the opportunity to have my hands in multiple facets of our business; operations, planning, pricing, customer service, and sales. Over the years, TOTAL has afforded me the opportunity to expand my skill set and industry knowledge, and I am very appreciative for that opportunity.
How many people are in your department?
The customer service department currently consists of 20 people; myself, 5 managers, and 14 customer service reps.
What is your objective for the next year and how do you facilitate that?
Aside from the obvious goals of booking more freight and providing the on time service that our customers pay for, we are working on several technology based goals within the department. This includes automating some manual processes such as growing the number of accounts that are on auto tender accept, exploring how to cut down on manually scheduled appointments, and providing quicker pricing guidance for spot quoting. The more manual tasks that we can take out of our CSR’s hands, the more time this allows them to handle customer issues and solicit freight.
What is your department’s greatest challenge?
Our greatest challenge is working through slow months and down market conditions; the truckload market is very cyclical. When it is booming, our jobs are easy. We are offered much more freight than we are able to accept. This allows us to handle our capacity commitments with our customers then have the luxury of choosing what loads are best for the TOTAL network. In slower times, we often have to call on customer contacts, work bid boards, and/or take less than desirable loads because the primary goal is to keep our drivers moving. There is a fine balance between staying busy and hauling loads at a loss. Then to cap that off, we still have to provide the on time service our customers have come to expect from the TOTAL name.
What do you think is our greatest strength?
Hands down, it is our people. I have proudly watched TOTAL expand over the past nine years and we have brought in so many bright minds during this time. This has been a key catalyst to our consistent growth and success. Across the board, we have some of the most talented people that the industry can offer. Our team is dedicated to our drivers and dedicated to our customers.
How are you planning for the year/years to come?
As more transactional based freight is introduced into the truckload segment, it will be key for us to ensure we align ourselves with the best mutual partnerships on a customer level. As an asset based carrier with a strong logistics backing, we can offer a number of transportation solutions that many competitors can’t. We can offer solutions that we don’t currently have on the table, because our large number of trucks and trailers allows us to be agile in our service offerings. Our continued success hinges on our ability to identify the right opportunities to sustain continued growth. Lucky for us, we have the right team in place to do exactly that.
What do you want the drivers to know about what you do?
Our drivers should understand that the customer service team is constantly working on their behalf. There are occasional problems in trucking; a double booked load, a bad pickup number, or a live-load that was supposed to be pre-loaded. Rest assured that our team works as quickly as possible to get these issues resolved. We all work for TOTAL so every load that we deliver SAFELY and on-time is a win for the whole team.
What do you like most about the trucking industry?
It is great knowing that day in and day out we are a part of everyday life. Everyone who works close to the industry can recognize that just about anything you use in your home was on a truck at some point. It is great to be part of something so impactful. On a personal level, the daily balance of miles and utilization vs. rate per mile vs. customer service provides a never ending puzzle to solve. There is no such thing as “my job is done” in trucking because one problem just opens up to another. It provides an exciting work environment.
What do you like most about working for TOTAL?
Many of my best friends in and outside of work are TOTAL employees. There is very much a family vibe. We all work hard, we all butt heads at times, and we all have our good days and bad days. But when it is all said and done, we always come together as a team and all have the greater good in mind.
What do you do with your time off/ for fun?
I currently split my time between Knoxville and Nashville, where my wife Becky works. We recently bought a home there. For fun, we enjoy tasting menus and usually take 2-3 international vacations each year. When not traveling or working, you can usually catch me at home with my 2 dogs watching football, at a pub watching West Ham United (usually lose), or at the gym (not as frequently as I should).