Fleet News

Customer experience is major priority for ‘control freak’ Swansway Group

The Swansway team with its 2017 Fleet News Award for best fleet dealaer

The reference is an informal one but the business of ensuring total end-user satisfaction is serious for leading fleet dealer 

The changing characteristics of fleet business means Swansway Group will not be resting on its laurels following a year of volume growth, contract wins and inward investment which saw the company win its first Fleet News Award. 

The blurring of lines between what defines fleet and retail business, changing end-user expectations and the influence of the internet on selection decisions are three key areas of consideration for Swansway Group Fleet sales director Sarah Eccles.

Several years ago awareness of the changes led to considerable investment in the business’s fleet services and innovation in the way it wins and retains customers.

Eccles formally refers to the need for “total control of the customer experience” – informally she says Crewe-based Swansway Group Fleet is a control freak. 

For example, Swansway formed two online brokerage businesses – Uchoose and Stable Contracts – to prevent losing profit to a third party and attract company car drivers using the net to ‘shop’; all vehicles are supplied direct from Swansway dealerships. 

As another example, in 2015, £500,000 was spent on a new group fleet centre, home to the fleet sales team, key account and administration teams, brand specialists, five-ramp PDI team, a logistics operation, 350-vehicle storage and automated car-wash and valeting team.

The centre has contributed to vehicle turnaround time, reducing it from four days to less than two.

Swansway has its own fleet service KPIs, to ensure it gives all its customers the highest level of service “above and beyond the requirements of their individual service level agreements”. Its delivery customer handover experience scores have to be a minimum 90%. Currently, the overall score is 96%. 

“We benchmark ourselves on the scores the end-user driver gives to our delivery driver,” Eccles says. 

“We are looking for at least nine out of 10. We do this because many leasing companies do not measure their service level agreement scores. But we want to make sure our service level is excellent to all customers.”

Fleet News: How do you ensure you are meeting a fleet manager’s requirements?

Sarah Eccles: Going back to basics. So, delivering what you say you will do, turning vehicles around as quickly as possible and having brand specialists available to the managers in our account management team, as opposed to one or two people knowing a little about each brand. Also, being flexible on what we can provide to meet a manager’s needs. So, for example, P11D information from us as well as from the leasing companies and when a mid-term car is being passed to another driver, we pick it up, do a health check and deliver it ‘as new’ to them, with a full handover ensuring a fleet’s duty of care commitments are fulfilled. Swansway also offers extended test drives of more than 72 hours (compared to the normal 48 hours) to allow fleet managers to appraise the vehicle as well as end-users to ensure it is practical for them.

FN: What do you do to ensure Swansway retains all servicing work on vehicles you supply?

SE: If there is ever a problem with a car it comes back to Swansway; we own it to ensure it’s resolved properly. We encourage fleets to call us rather than a service department. Very often we will provide a driver with a temporary vehicle in the event of a problem and transport their car back to the fleet centre – or one of our dealers – for repair.

FN: You’ve mentioned the increasing power of the end-user to chose their vehicle. How are their demands and expectations impacting on your service delivery?

SE: Every interaction we have with a driver has to add value to their experience of Swansway. For example, we provide vehicle handover videos so they have a permanent record they can refer to for details of the car, vehicles are delivered at an agreed time, long-term demos are available, as are our brand specialists to answer questions on their car choices. 

And before our delivery driver leaves the end-user, the final question our driver asks is always, ‘Is there anything more I can tell you or question I can answer?’ as we need to know they are going to drive safely from the off.

For every car we deliver we must have three happy customers: the leasing company and the fleet manager – which we are representing – and the driver. 

FN: How does Swansway ensure optimum care is delivered throughout the lease period, and not just at handover and immediately afterwards?

SE: For our leasing partners it’s down to daily communication, ensuring our SLAs are at their maximum. For our end-users and local business customers we let them know we’re always available for often the small jobs such as picking up and delivering service cars. I constantly encourage the local business development team to work as service collection drivers from time-to-time. As the time approaches for a driver to choose their next car, our team can take the new model to the end-user to assess. It’s a much more valuable, convenient experience than coming to a showroom. Saving people time sells cars. 

On our brokerage side we send out six-monthly emails to ensure drivers are happy; every 12 months we check to ensure vehicle mileages are on track and we make a phone call at 18 months. The touchpoints ensure our name is known, drivers are happy. As we approach change, they are more likely to take our call, stopping them going out to the open market for their next car.

FN: Ho do you plan to maintain your reputation, to stay ahead of the competition?

SE: We realised several years ago leasing was changing; there was a blurring of the lines between fleet and retail business for example in personal contract hire which is still classed as fleet registration for most of our brands; the emergence of the internet as research or shopping channel for drivers; increase in the risk of brokers taking some of our profit and the need to get a 100% grip on the customer to ensure the service standards we expected, to win new business, but, as importantly, retain our customers.

Facing these challenges has led us to where we are now. Our future lies in maintaining our three-pronged attack: excel in leasing, where we’ll always want to grow; further our supply to local businesses and finally expand our brokerage businesses.

The innovative spirit has seen Swansway Group Fleet not only adopt video walkarounds, but also use video for team member introductions, a more personalised approach than an email. 

And now, Swansway Group Fleet has its own drone to add to the professionalism of static reviews, moving on from the shaky hand-held video.

“We must excel in every avenue a driver would take to choose a company car – this fosters a spirit of innovation and drive for professionalism in all parts of the business,” Eccles says.

The innovative spirit has seen Swansway Group Fleet not only adopt video walkarounds, but also use video for team member introductions, a more personalised approach than an email. 

And now, Swansway Group Fleet has its own drone to add to the professionalism of static reviews, moving on from the shaky hand-held video.

“We must excel in every avenue a driver would take to choose a company car – this fosters a spirit of innovation and drive for professionalism in all parts of the business,” Eccles says.

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