Sister OEMs Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks Inc. plan to make the Internet-based Mack and Volvo Automated Service Initiation System (MVASIST) mandatory technology for its national network of 390 jointly branded full-line dealers by the end of next year. (See a video with more on MVASIST)

Developed for Mack and Volvo by Decisiv, MVASIST is designed to connect customers, dealers and OEMs via one online channel for faster, more accurate service estimates and write-ups when trucks need service, said Dave Albert, Volvo and Mack’s manager of customer satisfaction marketing.

“There are three major areas of ‘heartburn’ if you will for fleets trying to manage maintenance through the dealership network,” Albert explained during a detailed presentation about MVASIST held at Volvo’s Greensboro, NC, headquarters.

“First, fleets want a consistent service process, with standard repair times,” he said. “Second, they want the process to include complete fleet and vehicle-specific information, including warranty coverage and agreed-upon parts pricing, at the start of the repair. Finally – and this is the key part –more effective and detailed communication between the fleet and dealership is required, beginning with the arrival of the truck and continuing through the repair process.”

The system works like this: When a customer’s truck pulls into a participating dealership for service, the service writer discusses the truck’s issues with the driver and performs an initial evaluation, then uses MVASIST to create a comprehensive repair estimate, including related service operations, parts, labor, shop supplies, waste disposal fees and taxes. It also incorporates pricing for fleets that participate in MV Preferred parts program, said Albert.

An important benefit of MVASIST is that fleets are assured of uniform service procedures and information regardless of where the truck is serviced in the dealer network, he noted. Also all estimate and service information is available online for multiple managers at the fleet to review and approve.

Volvo and Mack have been working with Decisiv since 2003 to build a single system that fleets, dealers, and OEMs can all access through the Internet, Albert said. Pilot tests of MVASIST with select fleets and dealers started in 2005.

“The last two years we’ve really see this system get some traction with dealers and fleets alike, largely because of the improvement in communication MVASIST offers,” added Eric Kananen, who’s been acting as MVASIST’s project manager the last few years. “The major reason for service issues comes down to the reliance on phones and faxes to share information between fleets and dealers. That often creates major delays and misinformation in the service process. That’s what this system is designed to prevent.”

As MVASIST is an online tool, more detailed and accurate information can be shared between the fleet and dealer, even involving the driver and the OEM as necessary. The system also allows for photographs, purchase orders, and estimates to be attached as the service process moves along, and even gives the fleets the opportunity to pre-load specific inspection criteria for the dealer to perform every time one of their vehicles is in the shop, said Albert.

Based on the positive results of its pilot tests with dealers and several fleets – a mix of both Mack and Volvo customers – Albert said both brands are now engaging in a “full court press” to get MVASIST in place at full line Mack Volvo dealers by the end of 2010. “We’ve got 149 enrolled out of 390 so far, so we hope to have the rest up and running by the end of next year,” he said.

Albert noted that there’s a “longer learning curve” for dealers putting MVASIST in place simply because the system ties into some many different segments of the business – parts, warranty coverage, etc. – and because it requires changes in the service process.

Fleets have a much easier time getting up and running as they merely need to input their vehicle identification numbers (VIN) and establish inspection requirements if so desired, said Kananen. “It’s very much a ‘point and click’ style of system – it’s very intuitive,” he explained. “Another great part to this is that the data never goes away. You can go back and look at estimates up to a year. For many of our pilot fleets, they were able to eliminate whole file cabinets full of papers because all the information they needed was stored online.”

Though there is what Albert terms a “small cost” for fleets to use the MVASIST system, Mack and Volvo customers interested in using it get a 60 day free trial. “We want to make sure they have success with this system,” he stressed.