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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingDecember 05 - December 11, 2018
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Market Disruption: Are You Ready?

disruption 0fdb3By Brian J Riker

Market disruption is defined as a rapid change in market performance, usually due to external forces or a new entrant with a radically different way of doing business.

It has already begun in the towing industry with the increase of towing apps that function as dispatching services and other third-party intermediaries that now control a significant portion of the towing market. Gone are the days where a half-page ad in the phone book with an easy to remember phone number were all you needed to market your company.

What have you done to prepare for the days when it is not business as usual? Are you prepared for when the cash calls stop coming in directly to your call center and the majority of your work is routed through a third party? What would happen if you lost your police towing contract tomorrow?

These are difficult questions, yet they must be answered.

These questions lead to some of the reasons why it is vitally important to be active in your industry. Being active positions you to be in a much better place for success. Being active in your state and national associations will keep you up to date with potential issues as they arise. Being legislatively active will allow you to influence decisions that will change your way of doing business. Trade show attendance will allow you to network with towers from around the world and identify potential issues during their infancy.

Perhaps through these activities you will even help create regulations that will prevent some of the less favorable disruptions from occurring, or at least minimize their impact.

Disruptions in our industry are not new; in fact many disruptive technologies that were once fought have become commonplace today. The wheel lift and hydraulic wreckers were viewed as unnecessary expenses by many towers in the 70's; yet today they are indispensable. I believe the more technologically-advanced towers, those that embrace modern techniques, will be in a much better position to thrive in the coming years.

The industry is in a transition phase where our customers and our team have different needs, wants and ideas than they did a few years ago. Today is all about convivence and simplicity. Make it easy for someone to engage you using a smart phone, and they are more likely to use your service than if they have to make a phone call to your dispatch center.

So, how do you become a market disruptor? Offer new and innovative ways for your customers and potential customers to engage with your brand. Think beyond social media and traditional advertising. It sounds difficult, but really it is not.

Look around the communities you service and see where there are underserved markets. These areas are ripe with opportunities to dominate. Perhaps there are clients that need lower end services, just the basics that can be provided at a lower price point while maintaining profitability.

Maybe there are high end clients that are not getting the "white glove" treatment they desire. These clients will typically pay a hefty premium to have the perception of importance combined with service excellence.

If your competition doesn't have a professional call center, you can excel simply by having the best call takers, maybe even use novel methods such as text message communication. There are already many apps on the market that allow for this type of interaction, even going as far as providing the customer with real time tracking of the dispatched tow truck.

Innovation and disruption also occurs behind the scenes. Do you have the latest software and task automation? Not only can this make your company more efficient, which translates into greater profits, but it also can make offering technology solutions such as vehicle tracking, automated payment and electronic invoicing simple.
Being prepared for innovation rather than resisting it places you in a better position to serve the changing needs of your clients.

Safety can be innovative too! Look at the recent advancements in flexible low-voltage lighting used in safety garments, the explosion of high quality cameras used to protect many drivers and owners or the automated technology used to monitor and report safety critical events.

Some compliance assurance software programs can automatically assign training based on a team member's unique responsibilities or deficient areas. Proactive fleets are using these technologies to their advantage to reduce claims, provide remedial coaching and reduce overall cost of goods sold, again leading to greater profits even in the face of reduced gross revenues.

Bottom line, be prepared to adapt and overcome or be prepared to be replaced by those that do.

Brian J Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at brian.riker@fleetcompliancesolutions.net
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