Fleet News

Service not size is DCSFM password to more business

ALTHOUGH they say that size isn't everything, some of the figures behind DaimlerChrysler Services Fleet Management (DCSFM) are enough to make rivals stop and take notice.

Globally, the group manages a portfolio of some two million vehicles worth $90 billion and run by 3,500 people in more than 35 countries.

With this pedigree, it is little surprise that DCSFM UK, which has a funded fleet of more than 38,000 vehicles, has ambitious plans to become a favourite choice among UK fleets.

But managing director Geoff Robinson insists that despite the firm's size, it is its service levels, not rental rates, which will win business.

This confident prediction is based on major changes to the business that were introduced when it relocated from Sunbury to Milton Keynes recently. It gave the firm the opportunity to almost restart the business from scratch and introduce new systems and processes that it believes make it stand out from rivals in the business.

Robinson said: 'When we moved, about 25% of the staff came with us. With the relocation, we were open with our staff and announced our intentions several months prior to the move. This enabled our new employees from Milton Keynes to come down for training sessions before the move took place.

'When we did relocate, the majority of new staff had actually been working in their roles for a number of months. And by having a whole group of people coming in together, we had complete customer services courses for the whole company allowing for co-ordinated training.'

One of the most important results of the changes was introducing new talent into the business and focusing on service as a vital key to win new business, Robinson said.

He added: 'When we were recruiting replacements, we benchmarked on one or two of the best people that we had and used that as the basic standard we wanted to accept.We also had a number of people with backgrounds from outside the fleet industry. Despite the move, this has meant improvements, including better customer retention.

'This is despite going through a renaming, from debis Car Fleet Management, two acquisitions and relocation twice over the past few years.

'When we were recruiting we put everyone through psychometric tests because we believe good service is something people have a natural orientation towards. We wanted to identify this quality in prospective staff and bring this into our business.'

Although there may be a perception in the marketplace that DCSFM is affiliated to DaimlerChrysler, it is actually a separate multi-marque operation.

What the name does commit the company to, however, is an adherence to DaimlerChrysler standards when it comes to customer services to ensure that the brand is protected.

Robinson said: 'We have a clear focus on service. By using technology to measure our performance for customers, we can commit to set service standards and are able to quantify our performance against agreed customer targets.

'We are putting the building blocks in place to deliver the right level of service. For example, if you order a pizza and it doesn't appear within 10 minutes, then you get it free, so why can't a similar commitment to high service levels come from the leasing industry?'

DCSFM is committed to meeting set service level criteria in each department and also for each customer, to the extent that penalties could be invoked for poor performance. Potential customers are first offered a healthcheck, with an assessment of what can be done for the fleet, investigating key areas including funding, operational and human resources issues.

Investment in new online services allows fleets to have the flexibility of managing their own operations or asking the fleet service provider to do it for them. Robinson said: 'We will employ more staff in the future, which will be directly linked to our fleet growth. We also hold customer forums and ask customers what it is they want from us.

'From this we have seen that our key offering is service. We are selling a quality solution and it is for people wanting a business fit. We want to deliver added value to the customer and we won't go in with anything other than being determined to achieve that level. Therefore, we train staff to understand that our proposition to the customer is to exceed their expectations.'

As a result, staff bonuses are measured on their service performance, based on detailed information provided by the firm's Goldmine client management system. Information about the customer is immediately available and it can then be linked to every area of the company.

For example, a few quick checks by a member of staff reveals that in October 2003, 98% of calls for one customer were answered within three rings. With 3,500 to 4,000 calls per month coming into the team, a buddy system has been introduced to ensure fleet customers speak to someone who knows about their business every time they ring up.

And DCSFM offers customers' own views to back-up its claim of putting service at the top of its agenda.

Mike Sharpe, facilities manager of Choice Hotels Europe said: 'Dealing with such a large car fleet means that it is important for me to work with an efficient and responsive fleet supplier. I have been extremely impressed with the overall speed and response of the service I have received from DCSFM over the years, which more recently has got even better. The people I deal with are all very positive, precise and efficient, which ultimately makes my job easier. I regularly use DCSFM as a benchmark of the service I expect from others.'

Hans Mux, chief executive of B Braun Medical, said: 'We take the management decisions and DCSFM implements them and we review them. This has led to greater satisfaction for our company drivers at no additional cost to ourselves.'

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