As a welder’s sparks flew, a cage of silver ribs grew around the worker, as if Jonah’s whale had surfaced in Blue Bird Corp.’s factory and swallowed him up. Down the 89-year-old company’s assembly line, dozens of metal skeletons materialized piece by piece, turning into the familiar shapes of school buses.
Important Update: VW Funding Efforts
In our last issue of the Alt Fuels Report and at the national dealer meeting, we mapped out a strategy to secure VW funding for alt fuel school buses. So far, our outreach efforts have yielded the following results:
About 50 percent of Blue Bird dealers have contacted us and are working on their letters. We need to get that number higher. Please reach out to Chelsea Uphaus if you have any questions on completing the template letters. You can find them here.
Seven meetings have been scheduled with potential beneficiaries to discuss the inclusion of school bus replacement funds in their states’ program.
We’ve received four responses from governor’s offices acknowledging they have received our letter and will consider school buses in their state’s programs. Only 46 more to go!
We encourage all dealers to actively be working with school districts, sending in their letters to beneficiaries, and completing the Excel spreadsheet template that Blue Bird sent in a recent dealer memo. Our goal is that by the end of this month (that’s 11 more days), all dealers have sent their beneficiary letters and also have spoken to five school districts to get each of them to submit a letter.
If you have any questions, please contact Chelsea Uphaus at Chelsea.email@example.com.
Holland Bus Uses Public Relations to Increase Sales
Dealer: Holland Bus Sales
Contact: Chuck Burch
School District: Waterford School District, Michigan
This month, Waterford School District (WSD) deployed 10 new Blue Bird Vision Propane buses into its fleet. Holland Bus Sales’ Chuck Burch knew the district could get positive attention about the buses — they are the first in the county to switch from diesel buses to propane models. Chuck wanted to show that his school district customer was being smart with its money and forward thinking for the community.
ROUSH CleanTech and Holland Bus Sales worked together on a press release and event last year for another local customer in Detroit. Holland had a lot of success from that public relations effort, and they knew that we could drum up some more attention for this district, too.
Holland and ROUSH CleanTech sent a questionnaire to WSD to help the school district think through the story to tell about its bus purchase. For this particular customer, the new superintendent had a previous positive experience with propane buses, so it was an easy choice. We asked them to take some high-resolution photos, too, that we would make available to reporters.
We used the information from WSD and other newsworthy data on propane school buses to draft a press release. Timing it around the delivery of the new buses, we distributed the press release to media outlets in the area and to school bus trade publications. We then followed up with outreach via email and phone calls to secure media placements.
Local media coverage of new propane deployments gives school districts an opportunity to tell their story, while offering Blue Bird dealers the chance to promote alt fuels, get more attention from other districts in their market, keep Blue Bird’s name in the news, and potentially grow sales.
Are you interested in promoting the propane buses sold to one of your customers? Email Brian Carney at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about this opportunity.
Read the full press release here.
Here are some examples of the media coverage:
Dealer Spotlight: Blue Bird Sales of Pittsburgh
Dealer: Blue Bird Sales of Pittsburgh
Interviewee: Mark Schmitt
Title: President / CEO
Why do you promote propane to your customers?
The propane program with Blue Bird, ROUSH CleanTech and Ford is the best relationship I’ve ever experienced in my entire 45 years. That’s enough in itself to get on board.
Propane is good for America. It’s an affordable fuel. And the propane bus itself is simple — not complicated like a diesel bus. We use the total cost of ownership information available to show customers the savings. Also, propane fueling is easy to put on site and cheaper than putting above- or below-ground diesel or gas tanks at your facility.
What have you done that’s made you so successful with propane?
We give customers a hands-on experience through bus demos and facility tours.
We always have demos on site of every type of bus we sell. Without demos, I don’t know how people can be in the business.
For our tours, we trained our sales staff and technicians on propane and they’re all-in. We’re building a new facility with a 30,000-gallon commercial (public) fueling station on the property. This is the first dedicated school bus facility in the state of West Virginia!
Do you have any advice for dealers looking to sell more propane?
Plant propane buses like seeds, and then they grow. You don’t have to go in and convert an entire fleet. Start with one or two or five buses and then see how it goes. Soon, the district will have a majority of propane buses.
The success of the product comes with service after the sale. Get your technicians up to speed and certified through ROUSH CleanTech and Ford. ROUSH CleanTech is very serious about getting service issues resolved quickly. We don’t hear “we’re working on it” from them. ROUSH CleanTech has assembled a great team. They’re for real.
Training is also important. Train your sales reps and technicians on the product. That, along with the support from the manufacturing side, makes it successful.
Three Ways We Are Strengthening Our Customer Support
At the Blue Bird dealer meeting, we showed the results of the survey where we asked, you, the dealers, to provide honest feedback about how easy it is to do business with us. Although we scored well in some areas, we got some very specific feedback about how to improve.
So, it’s time to change. We’re going to focus on three key areas:
- Our processes
- Our people
- Our technology
From a process standpoint, we are adjusting how we handle all incoming inquiries with our new Customer Support group. We will have traceability and accountability internally to ensure every call is answered or returned in a timely fashion.
Our people are equally important, so we are investing in customer service training for our staff, improving coverage on the phones with a new staffing strategy, and hiring new people to handle the increased workload.
We will make all this happen through the use of technology, and plan to unveil some exciting new developments throughout 2017. We are building on a solid foundation with our Service Cloud and phone systems, which will help us measure and report where the improvements are happening or need to happen faster.
ROUSH CleanTech as an organization is committed to world-class customer service. We know that we have a long way to go to get there, but the process, people and technology changes we are implementing will get us to that point.
If you have feedback on how we’re doing or where we can improve, please call us at 800.59.ROUSH.
Michigan’s Waterford School District added 10 school buses powered by propane autogas to its fleet this week. The Blue Bird Vision buses are fitted with Roush CleanTech propane fuel systems. According to Roush, the Waterford School District joined almost 30 other school districts in Michigan that operate Blue Bird Vision buses.
The sub-zero wind chills will affect kids going to school in the morning. Aside from bundling them up in winter gear, Wayne Township has new ways to keep kids warm on their way to school. There’s a new app called Here Comes the Bus.
12.15.2016 — Waterford School District introduced 10 new school buses fueled by propane autogas into its fleet this week, joining almost 30 other school districts in the state to operate Blue Bird Vision Propane buses. Propane is an economical alternative fuel that will allow the school district to save money in maintenance and fuel costs, and to reduce its carbon footprint.