By Gary Killeen, fleet services commercial leader, GE Capital UK
Listening to a recent discussion with a group of fleet managers, one of them used a phrase that really stood out: “driver customers.”
These two words crystallise a shift in attitude that has been taking place for some time across large parts of the fleet industry.
Of course, drivers have always been customers to fleets in the sense that they were the focus of corporate strategies designed to attract and retain employees.
However, the relationship between fleet managers and drivers is subtly yet noticeably changing from being one where the former manage the latter in a fairly remote, hands-off manner, to one where the fleet department views itself as a dedicated supplier to a driver pool of internal customers.
This change is coming about for various reasons.
One is a general move in all kinds of organisations towards corporate cultures where different departments view themselves as internal providers of services; another is the increasing amount of responsibility being taken on by drivers and fleet managers in terms of how key issues such as duty of care and the environment affect both their behaviour on the road and the ways in which they look after their vehicle.
We perceive this change mainly through an increasing numbers of requests from our own customers to help provide a wide range of material for drivers.
Fleet managers are increasingly keen to make fleet drivers aware of their responsibilities in a friendly and easy-to-digest manner but also to provide general fleet information that will prove useful at both a corporate and individual level.
This can range from detailed driver guides outlining the conditions under which their company car is provided to e-mails outlining regular tips on safer or more economical driving.
This development is good for both fleet and driver.
Without relaxing the managerial controls that are essential to successful fleet management, it creates an atmosphere where a greater degree of dialogue is created between fleet department and driver.
At a basic level, the result is more effective communications; at a higher level, it means that fleet managers have a much better idea about what drivers actually want from their entire company car experience.