Setting Customer Expectations-Lessons From The Road-December 18, 2015.

Setting expectations for your customers is paramount to developing solid, long lasting relationships. If an agent is providing advice and it somehow protects the customer, value is created. Today we’re sharing a real life story which highlights the importance of setting expectations – read on and discover what can go wrong when you don’t set realistic expectations.

An agent of ours had a customer that purchased 23 fracking water tanks from an auction. There were about 500 tanks in the auction yard. Customer bought 23 tanks, sight unseen, or at least hidden conditions of tanks. These tanks had wheels on the back, so that they could be pulled behind semi.

It’s important to note that there was no security at the auction – tanks were sitting in open field. They were all numbered uniquely so that customers knew specifically which ones they purchased. There was also no organizer monitoring tanks being picked up from the field.



So what happened? When a buyer purchases sight unseen, he can be misled into thinking that all is well with his newly acquired equipment. That may be true… for a time. In this case there were so many trucks coming into the yard at such a fast pace, that drivers were seen with screwdrivers in their back pockets. Why? So that they could steal turn signals, lenses and bulbs quickly from the tank sitting next to the one they were picking up. When there are 500 Frack tanks sitting side by side, row after row, it’s easy to see how this could happen. There was no security in place to ensure that the customer’s product remained intact.

Light bulbs, lights and other parts were being stolen from other tanks so that the tanks being picked up could be connected to tractor and pulled out of there. Many of the tanks were not fit to be transported because of broken parts, so drivers we’re helping themselves to parts from other trailers.

Lesson learned…be prepared. If you’re going to an auction to secure business, be prepared for what you may have to haul. If it’s a CAT Dozer, ask if the unit can run under its own power. The buyer may never mention that the engine is not running and it will be up to you get the unit up on the deck. Ask questions – no question is a dumb question.

When our drivers showed up to move our customer’s tanks, they discovered that many parts had been stolen and the tank could not be moved until repairs were made. This caused significant delays and extra expenses that the customer was not expecting.

Also, wheels on each tank were not always up to standard, so tires had to be replaced before any move could happen. Our customer was upset because the broker was charging extra to fix these things (pre-approved of course) in order for the customer to receive their tanks.

Fortunately, in this instance there were maintenance shops nearby that could provide the needed parts. Also you should check are the breaks in good condition? When you take on the responsibility of a Power Only haul, who’s responsibility are the condition of breaks? It’s THE OWNER’S. Let the owner know of the condition right away so that he or she can make informed decisions on how to proceed once a problem is discovered.  Equipment owners don’t mind making the tough decisions when they arise. But they are counting on you to provide the best and most accurate information that you can in order for them to make those decisions.

Remember, protect yourself in your rate confirmation with language that protects your liability during a move. Same goes with tires and electrical harnesses. Ask yourself, if a tire blows on the highway, and causes an accident, who is liable, you or the owner of the unit? The carrier takes responsibility when they accept the condition of the trailer they are going to pull. If it needs to be inspected, take to an inspection site and get reviewed – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

– Set expectation with customer about equipment purchased at auctions. Warn about potential for equipment condition, which may result in extra costs.

– Advise customer to get security from auction to monitor tanks, especially when other drivers are showing up to collect tanks.

Other things to consider

The customer originally wanted his Frack Tanks loaded onto Step Decks for delivery. However, nobody knew ahead of time that there were no facilities to get the tanks up onto the step decks. A Crane was needed to do that, and one was not available. The problem turned out to be that both of us had assumed that the auction yard would gladly load the tanks onto the SD’s. That assumption was wrong – lesson learned for the future.

The second lesson was this; always protect yourself with the proper language in your contracts. This could have been disastrous for us, but thankfully the Rate Confirmation was written in such a way that the customer took full responsibility for HIS product. In a Power Only scenario, don’t ever let a customer “convince” you that his product is your responsibility beyond the scope of shipping and shipping only. Lights, breaks, wheels, tires and wire harnesses are his responsibility for road worthiness, not yours.