Peter Voorhoeve’s first role with the Volvo Group was in the call centre taking care of drivers whose trucks had broken down. He now firmly believes that everyone in the industry would benefit greatly from some time on the phones. “In Europe, there are drivers who can travel 500 kilometres and cross three countries,” Peter explains. “If you have a German truck driver who has broken down in Spain, and is trying to explain the problem to a Spanish mechanic who is about to go off for a siesta, it’s just impossible. So we established a multilingual call centre in Belgium to help truck drivers all over Europe. I did that for five or six years, and I still say today that everyone who works in the truck industry should work a couple of years in the call centres, because that is where you figure out what is really important for the transport industry—fast, friendly, customer service.

“If you get a customer on the line who has broken down, most of the time he’s feeling fairly disappointed—I have never had a customer cheering that he’s had a breakdown.

What I learned over the years is that if you handle it in a good way, and you can get them back on the road again quickly, then they become happy. When they expect to be off the road for the day and you can have them driving again in a couple of hours, then you’re going to have an even more satisfied customer.

“It was a very interesting and exciting time, and I remember thinking at the time that it was not like a real job—it was more of a hobby; helping people and servicing people. It was really good.”

Another place that taught Peter about service was China. He had been working in supply chain and logistics for a couple of years when he says he “began to miss the smell of diesel. I wanted to go back to the market. It was 2010 and the world was still recovering from the global financial crisis, but there was one area where it was going fantastically and that was the Far East, specifically China. I became responsible for the whole after-market services in Asia, and in that three-year period I took care of all of Asia–Pacific, which was a very cool experience. Anyone wanting to be a professional in service needs to live in Asia for a while because there you see what real service-mindedness is—the Asians really are very good at it.”