Fleet News

ACFO annual meeting: Getting the SUMM right for customer satisfaction

ONE of the biggest complaints among fleets is that their suppliers over-promise and under-deliver instead of being open and honest with their customers, the ACFO annual meeting heard.

Leasing companies especially are accused of often ignoring basic equations for a happy relationship based on trust and fair play in their desperation to win new contracts, which only creates extra work and damages reputations.

According to Liz Hollands, fleet manager for property adviser DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, fleets and suppliers should remember this simple SUMM.

  • Skills
  • Understanding customers’ business needs
  • Management – of customer expectations and
  • Management – of the services on offer.

    Hollands, who runs a fleet of around 400 user-chooser company cars and 500 opt-outs, said: ‘If you get the SUMM right, you get a happy customer.

    ‘First and foremost, we are looking to suppliers for their skills.

    ‘Skill suggests a degree of expertise. The Oxford Dictionary defines skill as ‘practised ability’ and not ‘untrained or amateur’.

    ‘And the service which we look for as a part of that skill is defined as ‘expert maintenance and repair work performed by vendor after sale’ and, perhaps ‘at your service’.

    ‘Suppliers must be honest about what they can do and about what they can’t do. ‘One of the biggest complaints I hear from other fleet managers is being offered the earth at the outset of a contract and then finding the supplier couldn’t deliver, either due to incomplete staffing or poor supplier management.’

    Quality of support staff in suppliers is a critical area and one that is often ignored, according to Hollands.

    She added: ‘So often a supplier’s sales staff are good, but the company is not so strong at employing experienced specialists to set up and run the back office operation.

    ‘The people dealing with the day-to-day paperwork simply don’t have the same vision as those managing the company.

    ‘If the staff in the supplier’s business are not happy, then the customers will never be happy.

    ‘As customers, we are looking for real skills in providing particular services which are not core to our own business activity.’

    Building a bond of trust between fleet and supplier is impossible if companies providing products can’t hold on to key staff, she added.

    There is nothing more frustrating than spending time and energy briefing an account manager about the fleet and the way it works, only to be told they are leaving soon afterwards.

    Hollands said: ‘Suppliers can’t build relationships with customers if they are constantly changing the points of contact within their own business.

    ‘We understand that good employees will be promoted, but customers need continuity from their suppliers.

    ‘Sometimes an account manager leaves and a new one knows nothing about how we operate. Yet a point of contact has been lost and we are not even told.’

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