Putting the customer at the heart of its business has paid dividends for LeasePlan UK and helped hundreds of fleets achieve significant cost savings.
The leasing and vehicle management company grew its leased fleet by more than 10% last year as it secured new business while retaining existing clients. In addition, it identified £40 million worth of potential savings for customers, realising £27m across corporate, SME and public sector clients.
However, it’s not all been about cost savings, according to managing director Matt Dyer. “It’s also around driver satisfaction, it’s around areas we’ve improved with the business and the advice we’ve put on the table,” he says.
“You have to know your customer to know what is going to be achievable and what is going to work.”
Every corporate customer has a dedicated account manager, who is continually looking to improve their business with cost savings, while having access to its enhanced online offering. LeasePlan Digital provides personalised digital services for both fleet decision-makers and drivers, making it easier to manage vehicle-related tasks.
The fleet manager portal provides a single source of management information and fleet trends data, including third party information. The driver portal is personalised and allows access to key information about vehicles and services, while a mobile app gives them access to the same information through their smartphone, with GPS allowing quick identification of driver location for breakdown and recovery.
But while LeasePlan has recognised the need to enhance it digital offering, it’s also not shied away from taking an innovative approach to existing services. In terms of tyres, it has revamped and expanded its fitter network, enhanced its LCV offering, launched same day mobile fitting and now ensures tyres are available on arrival.
Products and services have been shaped by customer feedback and by engaging with its own employees. Board members sponsored focus groups so that staff could give the company a view of what sort of experience and level of service they would expect. “The key thing that came out of the process was people expect a consumer experience and the service to support it,” says Dyer.
LeasePlan also launched the business development division and innovation council last year, giving a route for customer opinions to feed back into the business and be acted upon. “We’re increasingly aware that our future will be shaped by the needs and demands our customers,” Dyer says. “It is our role to listen to them, to understand what it is they need and then to invest and change on the back of it. That’s why the business development division and new product team are really important.”
Fleet News: What new products or services have come out of this process?
Matt Dyer: We launched LeasePlan Flexible last year, our long-term rental solution. Organisations are having to be much more adaptable and there are times when committing to a vehicle over three, four or five years makes absolute sense, particularly when you have a vehicle that needs to be tuned into the purpose of the job. However, there are some people who do not want to commit to three, four or five years and they’re willing to accept less choice for having flex on the term.
I really see this becoming a blend of the overall mix and having great potential.
FN: Where else are you seeing opportunities?
MD: There are areas that continue to emerge and evolve. Commercial vehicles, for example, are extremely important. There is still more we want to do to adapt our proposition, but the fleet leasing marketplace is growing partly because commercial vehicle operators are increasingly leasing rather than buying. Their needs need to be reflected, recognised and invested in. But, there are probably pretty sophisticated commercial fleets that still need the reassurance and conviction in terms of what leasing companies can do for them so we have to keep working hard to make that case as strong as we can.
FN: Does the SME market hold similar possibilities?
MD: This is one area I truly believe we are a market leader. Our commitment to the SME sector and our commitment to support SME businesses that want to lease their vehicles is second-to-none.
It’s a very fast growing part of the market; still fewer SMEs lease than own which is unbelievable considering the progress that has been made.
FN: Does having a standalone SME brand in LeasePlan Go help you when dealing with that sector?
MD: Part of it is branding, but it’s also about understanding that what an SME is looking for is different. They’ve got a different mindset, they’ve got different priorities and they’ve got different challenges.
In the past, this is an area where banks should have been looking after their needs and they didn’t. I think we’re better able now having developed sufficiently to look after the interests of small businesses in a far better way.
FN: How else is the fleet market changing and what are you doing to adapt?
MD: When we talk about putting the customer at the heart of the business, it’s about the individual as well as the client. So much of what we do now is impacted by the individual. We can have the best corporate offering but we also have to make sure we’re looking after the needs of the individual driver, because they are increasingly being offered the chance to stay within a scheme or a cash alternative, for example. We have to appeal and bring a strong proposition to the driver as well as at client level.
FN: How have you improved the services you provide at the driver level?
MD: Seven or eight years ago, our online quote and order tool was great if you were a fleet manager and you knew very specifically what you wanted to order. But it was a pretty poor experience if you were a driver and you wanted to know what you could get through your scheme or within your allowance.
Recognising that the individual is demanding more, but having the digital capability to do it in a way that is affordable and scalable means that somebody can now go on to our quotation and order tool and get a far better understanding than they ever had before.
There used to be teams of people communicating with drivers. Now we have the ability to do that in a relatively straight-forward way. It leaves fleet managers free to define policy rather than spending time on administration.
LeasePlan’s approach has been good news for its business and customers alike, and has helped it secure the coveted title of leasing company of the year, for the more than 15,000 vehicles category, at this year’s Fleet News Awards.
It was, according to Dyer, was a great endorsement of the hard work of everybody involved.
“It meant a huge amount to us as a business,” he says. “But it’s not just about LeasePlan and our employees; it’s also about our suppliers and our customers, and the impact they’ve had.
“The way we collaborate and the way they push us in terms of what they’re looking for have allowed us to be in the position where we’ve received this recognition. We’ve put a lot of hard work in over the past few years and this shows us we’re on the right path, but there is still work to do.”
“LeasePlan has identified significant cost savings for its customers through its consultancy service and has set up dashboards allowing customers to monitor and report on the savings. The creation of an ‘Innovation Council’ has led to new products that address customer challenges. Its staff are incentivised on customer satisfaction and its suppliers are closely managed, with drivers able to rate experiences at the point of service. A new multi-supply approach for tyres and a wider fuel card network are among LeasePlan’s enhancements to its service offering.”