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Let’s Talk Shop: Managing Fleet Accounts

Fleets require managing both the company that hired you and the entire process of the installation itself.

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Managing fleet accounts is a two-fold approach-managing the graphics and installation and managing the company that is purchasing the wraps. We’re a small sign shop with a busy production schedule. Often the vehicle wraps that come through our shop come in in twos, threes, maybe fours. These wraps are often joining a much bigger fleet of vehicles that the company has. In our area, we don’t get calls to wrap a fleet of 20 vehicles at one time.

I mention this because I think the majority of wrap shops are in the same boat as us. It could be because you’re in a smaller town or you don’t have large companies in your area that require that many vehicles to be wrapped at one time.

If we were doing four vehicles at a time, or 20, we would approach the project the same way. We would still ask the customer the same questions about vehicle types, the number of vehicles coming in at a time, the budget, deadline, design variances across the vehicles and what artwork is available.

There are differences of course; if you have a fleet of 20 vehicles that need to be wrapped on a tight deadline, you’re going to need a larger crew to manage the graphics production, as well as a larger install crew. You’re also going to approach the pricing differently than if a customer is ordering a couple of vehicles at a time.

Aside from managing the graphics, taking care of the customer is an integral part of this, no matter how many vehicles you’re doing at a time.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

When a company chooses to do business with you on a repeat basis, it’s because of the quality of your work and the ease of doing business with you. Initially, the price may be a factor as you quote their first project, but even then, how you communicate with the customer, educating them and offering quality options is a huge part of gaining a new client.

A new account often starts with just one vehicle. When the customer learns that they can trust you to not only do a quality job but that your company is easy to work with, they will return with the next vehicle(s).

COMMUNICATION

Our company is heading into its 25th year in business, and I believe that one of the areas that sets us apart from the competition is our communication with the customer. We’ve heard many times over the years that a customer pursued business with us because a) we actually answered the phone, b) we followed through on a quote or other item we promised and, c) we were able to answer their questions thoroughly.

If it’s between the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, our front door is unlocked, our staff is on-hand to help customers and our phones will be answered. We are not flaky. It’s crazy how something that should be a given for a business is often an exception.

We’ve set parameters for our staff that helps to ensure we’re taking good care of the customer. If a customer has a vehicle-or multiple vehicles-to wrap, we have a checklist of questions that we work through with them to ensure we gather all of the necessary information in the most efficient way so that we can get them a quote. We also try to get all estimates to the customer within 24 hours. If for some reason the quote is held up, maybe because we’re getting an estimate on materials from a supplier, we give the customer a quick call to touch base and keep them in the loop.

PRICING

Whether it’s the first vehicle or the fifth vehicle, it’s important to be consistent and clear with your pricing. If the customer is adding vehicles to their fleet but is only wrapping a couple of vehicles at a time, you’re not able to negotiate bulk discounts with your suppliers that allow you to cut pricing to the customer. Although you may get a bit faster as you go during installation, generally the first vehicle will take the same amount of time to wrap as the third one.

Again, we do our best to communicate with the customer and explain this to them, but we also use a sliding scale on our square-foot graphics pricing so the larger the project, the less per square foot the customer will pay, up to a point. If a customer has three vehicles to wrap, we’ll give them a discount overall on all of the vehicles, if they place the order for all three and leave a 50% deposit on all three. If they want to bring them in one at a time and pay for them as they go, then the price per vehicle is a bit higher, because we have no guarantee of the repeat work.

Our installation pricing is not based on a per-square-foot price, but rather on an estimate of the amount of time we think it will take to wrap that particular vehicle. The installation pricing isn’t generally discounted, just the graphics pricing.

After working with our fleet customers for a while, we usually get to the point where they’re no longer having us quote each vehicle. They’ve learned that we’re fair in our pricing and that the quality of our work is worth every penny. Many times a new addition to a fleet starts with a conversation similar to “Hey, I have a new 2019 Ford Transit van. I want it to look just like the last one you did. When can I bring it in?”

Not only is it great to have the trust of our customers, but repeat projects like this are great profit makers. Often your print files are already set up, and placement measurements have already been determined, so the printing and installation are super-efficient.

GRAPHIC MANAGEMENT

We take great care of the customer through excellent communication and consistent pricing. The flip side to the coin is the management of the graphics themselves. Whether we’re wrapping four vehicles at a time or 40 vehicles at a time, we want there to be consistency across the fleet.

Color management is one area of focus. We’ll typically print a color sample for the customer to sign off on before we print the first wrap. We keep this approved color sample on file and make sure all graphics are printing consistently.

Art files are labeled clearly and organized in customer folders. All art files are backed up and organized using a cataloging program, so they’re easy to find in the future.

We also keep hard copies of all of our customer paperwork. Clear note-taking helps us avoid costly mistakes from one vehicle to the next. If we’re wrapping multiple vehicles that are exactly the same, we make sure to note, on a print-out of either a template or photo of the vehicle, the exact placement measurements. This includes where some aspects of the background image fall on the vehicle as well as the placement of spot graphics.

DESIGN

A step beyond color management is planning the design of the wrap across multiple vehicle types. Many of our fleet accounts have small cars, pickups, utility bed trucks, box trucks and even semi-trailers.

It’s essential to keep the core elements consistent across the vehicles-the colors, logos and major design elements. The sizing and placement will change, but the core elements should be present and uniform, maintaining the overall look the company desires.

When you first begin working for the customer, you will have an initial design charge to set up their company logo, colors, and other elements. Be sure that you take into account the time that will be spent fitting the artwork to multiple vehicle types and charge accordingly.

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Charity Jackson

Charity Jackson is owner of Visual Horizons Custom signs, a full-service commercial sign company based in Modesto, Calif.  She has been in business since 1995 and specializes in vehicle wraps, design and project management and workflow. You can visit her Web site at www.vhsigns.com.

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