Leasedrive is entering a new era which will see it merge with Zenith after they were both acquired by private equity company HG Capital.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the leasing company, which Roddy Graham and David Bird have overseen since their management buyout in 2003.
Despite a history of acquisition and merger, driver satisfaction has remained at the heart of Leasedrive’s customer service ethos, which is focused on going the extra mile.
It has paid dividends for business. The Leasedrive Group has been ranked 36th in the latest The Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100, which ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing profits over the last three years of available audited accounts.
Leasedrive credits its staff with its customer service success and is determined to maintain driver satisfaction as it enters a new chapter in its short, but eventful, history.
Fleet News: How has the business performed since the HG Capital deal was announced in December?
Roddy Graham: The business has never been in better shape. We have won a few new accounts since the deal’s been completed and volume-wise things are really good.We’ve had a great first quarter; the rental management business is going through the roof and our agreement with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services is developing
FN: What will the merger of Leasedrive and Zenith mean for Leasedrive’s customers?
RG: The great thing about merging our two businesses is that you’ve got a lot of really good knowledge. You’ve got Tim and Mark , who have substantial industry experience, and myself and David sitting on the supervisory board. Add to this an excellent pool of talent in both businesses and we have the makings of a fantastic customer proposition.
We will continue to add value for customers. The ability to be much bigger, appeal to a much wider audience, and have some benefits and economies of scale in certain areas, while still standing for that quality, will ensure this business continues to be successful.
I think there are some challenging times ahead for the industry as a whole, but the great thing about our industry is it’s demonstrated how resilient it is.
FN: Where do you think you will be able to add value?
RG: I think there will be a continuing move to outsourcing non-core products. I believe when you see how we have developed value added services such as rental management, salary sacrifice or accident management, to name a few, we’ve demonstrated we can add value for our customers; we’ve given them an alternative.
FN: How do you think the industry is perceived?
RG: A lot of people still see the automotive industry in terms of dodgy second-hand car dealers, like Arthur Daley. It’s one of the reasons I’ve invested a lot of my time and my business’s time in the ICFM (Institute for Car Fleet Management); I want our industry to be professional and to be recognised for its professionalism. I spoke to the BVRLA seven or eight years ago and asked ‘why, as an industry, aren’t we promoting student placements; why aren’t we running graduate schemes?’.
I know when I left school I wasn’t thinking I wanted to get a job in the fleet automotive industry; everyone I know in this industry got there through other industries, such as finance or sales. What we should be doing is looking to centrally organise and promote graduate training schemes so that somebody studying at university says ‘I want to get into this industry’.
FN: Has that passion for professionalism helped shape your customer service ethos at Leasedrive?
RG: We’ve tried to put something back, invest in the future. Let’s try and get the next generation of good people and good managers, and improve our industry profile. The best way to do that was to make Leasedrive a customer-focused and driven organisation that first and foremost people think of as a fleet management company. It takes time, but the whole culture of our business is about the customer.
We make sure everyone is aware of the customer requirements. One of my missions was to generate an absolute culture of customer service and trust; to build a business that customers believe can deliver true value and is a trusted partner. It’s how we built the business back in 2003 when we just had 1,700 vehicles.
Then it was all about people and, while we’ve built clever systems to make that experience better for our customers, it remains the case today and it will as we move forwards and merge with Zenith. We’re a customer service organisation that happens to provide some really good automotive products to fleet customers.
FN: Where do you rank customer service in your customer proposition?
RG: Price is incredibly important, but my contention is that well run businesses that focus on customer service are also efficient businesses and that enables you to be price competitive.
We have always been able to demonstrate that, but we try to avoid talking about price and instead talk about value. It’s about what you’re actually getting for your money. Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.
FN: How important is the quality of your IT platform to delivering good customer service?
RG: It’s absolutely vital. You can never have a successful business with just good people any more than you can have a successful business with just good systems. If you can marry good systems with good people you will be a success. We live in a world where you need technology and you’re constantly investing to ensure your customers have access to quality.
FN: One area of investment has been with the MyCar salary sacrifice offering; how has that helped develop that part of the business?
RG: It’s been transformational. We’ve been doing salary sacrifice for a long time and so had Masterlease. It had a product called MyCar which was focused on the public sector. It was a great product, but required a degree of investment, so when Masterlease joined our business we spent three or four months taking to customers about the product, asking what they liked and what they didn’t like.We then asked ourselves ‘what would the customer expect it to do?’. It meant we could deliver a system that was simple and intuitive.
Leasedrive has recently developed a number of online tools to allow customers and drivers to self-manage their accounts and car ordering, with comparisons and quick filters on offer.
Email servicing and MOT alerts also help customers keep an eye on top of their car management, and all paperwork can be completed online with the use of digital signatures.
A combination of intuitive IT systems and a team of people motivated to ensure high customer satisfaction levels are maintained suggests Leasedrive will continue to be an industry leader when it comes to customer service.