By focusing on service, C P Davidson gets its clients out of trouble

There are advantages in being a small company – a close-knit team and a focus on customer experience. “If you’d asked me three or four years ago, I would have said that I wanted to be the biggest rental company there is,” said Robert Davidson, Operations Director at C P Davidson (CPD). “In the last two years, I’ve realised I’d much rather be a smaller business with a good reputation than a big business with a bad reputation.”

Based in Chorley, CPD is a municipal vehicle specialist that builds new vehicles, alongside supplying rental vehicles and parts across the UK, from The Highlands to Southampton and over to Northern Ireland. Employing 55 people and with five engineers on the road, CPD focuses on ensuring its products are up to the highest standard to be sure that the customer gets the most reliable piece of equipment.

“We only have five engineers – that tells you how reliable the equipment is and we attend 90% of breakdowns within an hour,” Robert said.

Customer experience is as important a part of CPD’s business as its products. For CPD’s clients, such as refuse companies and councils, which operate on tight margins, any downtime can have serious financial consequences.

“We understand that our customers are providing an important service and reliability is an absolute priority. Getting replacement vehicles and parts to a client as quickly as possible is essential to keeping them profitable.

“Bank holiday weekend, I was in here on the Sunday handing a truck over to a customer. It’s what we do. I think that’s why we’re different – we just know what the customer needs and deliver it.”

An important part of CPD’s portfolio  are hook loaders, such as the CPD Hydrolift. Its robust and reliable design takes advantage of the simplicity inherent to hook loaders. “Refuse vehicles are complicated, they have to be complicated for legislation,” Robert said. “But hook loaders are not that market. The simpler we make it the better and it’s come from years of maintaining other manufacturers equipment.”

CPD has seen the demand for hook loaders on its own rental fleet growing in the last few years. “We’ve got eight hook loaders on the rental fleet – a relatively small number of hooks. It was never the intention to have all these hook loaders, it has grown with customer demand. We’re not actively pushing hook loader hire, customers ring us up and ask if we’ve got one available, and we say we’ve got a demonstrator that you can rent it, and then we need to build a new demonstrator.”

The right stuff

Robert lamented the state of the customer service side for municipal vehicles. He pointed to the slow pace at which replacement parts can be ordered and shipped, especially in a world where companies like Amazon have increased customer expectations.

“When anybody buys equipment from us, if they need a part, they can have it immediately, it’s on the shelf, or they have to wait till nine o’clock the following morning for it to be delivered to them. If it breaks down, we can send them a demo truck or we fix it, depending on what the failure is with it.

“Everything breaks down, it’s just how you deal with it that’s important.” Robert said.

With its 160-vehicle hire fleet, CPD has seen growth in its rental market. Robert puts this down to a major problem that has been plaguing most vehicle-reliant industries – the skills shortage.

There is a shortage of skilled HGV and hydraulic technicians, meaning that vehicles take longer to be fixed and we provide reliable cover vehicles on the same day or before start of rounds the next day.

CPD take care of the routine maintenance and all annual tests,  this takes the of the pressure off of its clients. By renting, councils and private contractors gain access to a crew of highly trained engineers.

“If you’re a business focused on collecting waste, that’s your number one objective,” Robert said. “The trucks are really just an inconvenience to you, but a necessity. If you can pay a fixed amount of money and know that every day your fleet is on the road working and ready to go and you don’t have to have the hassle of a garage, that’s the best thing. We’re seeing more and more customers go down that route.”

Keeping the vehicles well maintained is an essential part of CP Davidson’s service.

“We do a 202-point inspection of our equipment every six weeks,” Robert said. “Every time as vehicle comes in to the workshop or is added to the rental fleet it gets that level of inspection.” However, there is only so much CPD can do. The first line of defence against breakdowns and malfunctions is always the customer.

Future look

Moving into 2020, CPD will use technology to develop the business and offer better services for its customers. “There’ll be an app for them,” Robert said. “When they’ve got the vehicle, they can log defects through it, they can get details on tax, MOT and servicing. If they bump it, they can go into the app, take a photograph and it automatically logs the date, time, GPS coordinates against that truck.

“We’re actually just having a new camera system put in to the depot. The camera company are working with our app designer to see whether we can give customer logins to certain cameras, then they’ll be able to see their truck being built. I want to show complete and utter trust with the customer. I want our customers to trust CPD to the nth degree.

“My aim is for CPD to be completely transparent and for our customers to have no concerns surrounding the quality of the vehicle that they rent from us.” said Robert. “That’s being done through embracing technology.”

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