“Our first priority over the past few weeks has been to make sure everyone is safe,” said Mercedes-Benz Trucks UK MD Mike Belk, talking about the impact Coronavirus has had on his business. “It’s all too easy to lose sight that at the heart of this is a health and medical crisis.” He told Commercial Motor that the strict social distancing measures introduced across the business seem to be working too, with the number of employees in isolation or showing symptoms dramatically reducing.
But it’s not just Mercedes-Benz Trucks employees who are getting support, said Belk, who confirmed that the dealer network is in close contact with operators. “A lot of customers, who have spent years building up businesses, are very fearful and anxious as to what the outcome of this will be,” he explained. “As a team, part of our role is to reach out and offer support, and be an understanding voice. Our dealers are spending a lot of time making sure they’re in touch with their customers. We want them to know that we’re in it together, and we’ll get though it together too.”
He confirmed that Mercedes had received some requests for payment holidays on R&M contracts, where customers have had to stand-down vehicles. “While we can’t do what everybody wants, we are showing flexibility and latitude, and dealing with all requests on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Belk added that he is incredibly proud of the entire dealer network, which has shown “massive resilience” throughout. As a result, all dealerships are open, albeit some at a reduced level to reflect customer demand.
Throughout the crisis he has kept a close eye on KPIs, and reported more positive news. “Parts availability is good, VOR’s are showing a downward trend, and the Service 24hr roadside assistance response times have fallen from just over an hour to 42 minutes. He said: “We have a full complement of technicians on the road, and they are able to get around more quickly as there’s less congestion.”
He concluded: “So, in short, we have kept our operations running. The resilience and team spirit is phenomenal. This has been a real people story.”