As part of our new ‘A Day in the Life of…..’ series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Alex Fordham who leads the Damage department at City Transport Solutions, who gives us some excellent insights into what it takes to live a day in her life.
Q: Hi Alex, before we dive into the meaty subject of being a damage controller, how long have you been working at City Transport Solutions?
A: I first started working with City Transport Solutions (CTS) while I was studying at university – during the holidays I’d work within the operations team. When I graduated, I was offered a full-time job and haven’t looked back since. That was over 20 years ago.
Q: What is it about being a damage controller that you most enjoy?
A: No two days are ever the same! Although the team and I are working to the guidelines outlined in the CTS Robust Damage Process, the relationships we’re building and the conversations we’re having with suppliers and customers daily is always varied and keeps us on our toes!
Q: Can you tell us more about the Robust Damage Process?
A: Sure. It’s a process that CTS created exclusively for our clients to streamline the damage process and ensure that damage claims are handled efficiently and effectively.
When a vehicle is booked out on hire the customer will receive a confirmation email, along with a reminder to check the vehicle for damage upon delivery, so if any existing damage is there, we can log it on our system to avoid any discrepancies at the time of off hire.
If damage is present on a vehicle, we ask the customer to keep a record of the damage in written form but also with supporting pictorial evidence. This not only helps to safeguard the customer but the supplier too.
Before the vehicle hire period ends, we send confirmation of the off-hire and remind them of the damage inspection and to submit any evidence of damage caused.
Once we’ve been notified of damage, we let the supplier know within 24hrs that damage has been caused and create a damage pack that we send to them, asking them for:
- Photographic evidence of damage
- Cost of repairs
- Loss of use
Once a vehicle has been returned, if there was no mention of damage during the on-hire or off-hire process then we’ll work with the supplier and the customer to close the case due to insufficient evidence.
However, if there’s a dispute then a conversation will take place between myself as the damage controller and the customer, as well as a conversation between myself and the supplier to understand if we need to collect more evidence before proceeding with the claim.
Q: Are there any challenges you face along the way, when dealing with suppliers or customers when damage has been caused?
A: There can be, especially if a supplier is trying to claim back more than what they’re entitled to from the claim. We see all sorts – suppliers telling us that vehicles will be off the road for 7-14 days when we know that the damage can be repaired within 48 hours.
Although we’re often stuck in the middle, it’s my job to remain fair and impartial and resolve the issue as soon as possible. We see both sides and need to ensure that we’re representing the customer and the supplier equally.
It’s why the Robust Damage Process is so effective, because we see the vehicle hire through to the very end, so if there are any disputes then we give the customer 10 days to look into it and either admit that the damage was their fault or proceed with the dispute.
Sending the vehicle check reminder along with the vehicle hire confirmation helps to eliminate the need for disputes, but many branches that we’re working with state they are too busy to check the vehicle upon arrival. All we can do is use our experience to anticipate any possible issue and mitigate against inaccurate claims for the future.
Q: Is this service bespoke to City Transport Solutions?
A: We know that we’re offering a much more tailored service than other vehicle suppliers, who don’t have such a pro-active and robust process in place.
Most direct suppliers don’t have an equivalent process or at least the reminder in place. If a vehicle has been damaged, they’ll simply send an invoice to the customer to pay for damages, whether it was the customer’s fault or not.
This can result in overcharging through excessive estimates for repairs or how long the vehicle has been off the road. For some hire companies, damages can be a profit-making opportunity with some client branches too busy to do the diligent checks on arrival and collection. This leaves them vulnerable to overcharging as they haven’t got enough supporting evidence or experience in the damage/repair process and costs.
Q: With so many vehicles being hired through City Transport Solutions, you must have to assess a lot of vehicles being returned?
A: We do! Currently, we’re working our way through 70 live damage claims, so I’m working with a team to help me prioritise and then process each vehicle.
We ensure that an actual human being is keeping a close eye on the vehicles being returned, so if damage has been caused, we can ensure that the customer is only paying the fair market price for the cost of parts and labour to get the vehicle repaired.
Q: It sounds like a really thorough process and one that helps City Transport Solutions stand out from its competitors
A: Thank you! I can’t claim it as my own process, but it helps our customers and suppliers trust that we’re going to deliver the best possible experience and ensure they’re only paying what they should.
The relationship with our suppliers is crucial to being able to supply short-term or long-term vehicle hire to our customers, so it’s imperative that we do all that we can to ensure a positive experience, even in slightly challenging situations.