“Quality is the ante to play in this industry, so just providing quality products doesn’t differentiate us,” said Jim Young, Director of Systems at ETE REMAN. “Where we stand out is the customer relationship. In reality, that’s how ETE became what it is. But, as we’ve grown, we’ve had to staff more people to take care of more customers. The result of that was customers calling in might talk to different people each time. In our early years, there was a very personal feel to the customer relationship, one that has been difficult to maintain as the number of customers and number of people here expanded. We are getting back to our roots – business between real people with real care and concern for one another, all done on a handshake.”

ETE says getting there is the stuff of magic. They’re using new technologies, artificial intelligence and business intelligence, combined with doubling down on educating and empowering employees to deliver service in better and creative ways.

“About six months ago, we looked around and decided we weren’t providing the service we wanted…or that we felt our customers expected of us,” said Ben Stern, Director of Business Strategy. “We started with three simple questions:

  • How can we provide better service?
  • How can we strengthen relationships?
  • How can we improve every day?

“Unfortunately, the traditional departmental approach of having sales, core returns, and product support as three separate silos made it too difficult to do those three things, so it was time to remanufacture our customer-facing departments.”

Enter what ETE REMAN calls “pods,” which are cross-functional teams consisting of four to five employees and wholly dedicated to specific customers. This way, customers get the same people on the phone each time.

Overseeing the operations of the pods is Director of Customer Loyalty, Maggie Ferkovich, who is excited to share that “One touch resolution is a real thing here. When a customer calls, the representative can take care of anything short of a technical consult or a diagnosis in the case of a warranty item.” Maggie points to the company’s Pod Mission Statement:

  • We will provide our customers with a better service experience by eliminating hand-offs and wait periods.
  • We will build better personal relationships with customers by reducing the number people they speak to.
  • We will experiment with and improve workflow best practices to make the work easier, faster and more accurate.

“None of this could happen without a commitment to training,” said Maggie.

Jim Young added, “When making the pod transition, there are a lot of skills to span what was previously handled in the three departments. Sari Rivera was one of the few at ETE that had experience in all those areas, so we’ve used her to help the pod members catch up on the skills they need. She now takes care of ironing the wrinkles between the training and the needs of the pods.”

“The differences are the number of skills the reps have to master,” explained Rivera. “When I trained a product support representative in the past, they had to master only a few skills. We would have a rep on the phone with customers in a matter of a few days. Now, it takes quite a bit longer, but with pods in place and people trained in all areas of serving the customer, we can take care of concern during that initial phone call.”  

Tom Vierling, Director of Product Strategy, chimed in. “The pods caused us to make some additions to our technology. We installed a new phone system that integrates with our customer relationship management software so that the calls are routed to the correct pods automatically. One challenge has been that we’ve collected so much data over the years, but it has lived in different systems. We’re continuing to find ways to share that data and to present it in a useful format. Already, we have the ability to see an entire customer’s purchase history, open cores, current orders and even warranty claims on a single screen.”

Tom is also responsible for the  ETE REMAN catalog (www.buyete.com) which doubles as a reference tool for the pod members. “We’ve built a best-in-class catalog that is faster, easier, and more accurate than anything else out there. Enter a VIN and you get price and availability. Same goes for a tag number or the usual Year/Make/Model lookups. Plus, we’ve integrated with LTL carriers so we can tell you exactly when your transmission or transfer case will arrive at your shop.”

Present, but clearly doing his best to stay quiet during our visit, was Noah Rickun, President of Sales & Distribution (aka “Captain Reman”). Smiling, Noah offered his thoughts: “You can’t imagine how proud I am listening to all of this. I’ve been blessed to find the amazing people at this table, and those out on the floor right now, from all over the place and then assemble them into the dream team that they’ve become. I rarely hire from within the industry. I find smart people with great attitudes and set them up for success here. Now that we’ve got the team we do, all I have to do is to set the course and get out of the way.”

Rickun continued, “I’ve tasked my team with making the customer experience better here than anywhere else. It starts with being available how and when our customers want us.

We talk to customers via phone, text, instant message, online chat, email, fax…heck I’d install a telegraph if that’s what people want. Smoke signal us if you’d like. We are open for business!”

The conversation shifted to hiring and retaining employees. The ETE REMAN team acknowledged things are different today. People are different. Generations are different. Expectations are different.

Andee Fromm, Marketing Manager, pointed out that, “Culture is more important than skill set. Skills can be learned. But who you are in your core doesn’t change. We want to make sure you’ll add value to who we are as people, and that ETE will be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for you. And it’s no longer just about money. Equally important is having a good time with people you work with. We celebrate every birthday. We celebrate success. We invest in our employees’ happiness.”

“Happy employees create happy customers,” added Rickun.

Enhancing Support

The ETE group emphasized that the acquisition of ATSG last year has made a considerable impact on the company’s production quality. They say that ETE has provided ATSG with better access to resources for training manuals and seminar content and the hiring of four additional phone techs: Glen Troub; Rino Partipilo; Dominick Pietrantronio; and Al Sanchez (Spanish bilinqual) to better serve ATSG members.

Rickun said, “ETE has provided a greater exposure to the issues shops are having with today’s transmissions. We can document them and determine fixes and repairs. We also opened up resources that will advance ATSG services to its subscribers, greatly improving their ATSG experience. We also have access to the latest transmissions for technical development to keep those subscribers on the cutting edge.”

Everyone present pointed to the continuing integration of ETE and ATSG tech support teams, saying that transmission shops now have access to ATSG support on ETE REMAN transmissions.

Finally they report that they are hard at work converting ATSG diagnostic information into an online self-service resource. “Imagine being able to solve difficult transmission issues with just a few clicks,” said ATSG’s Wayne Colonna.