Fleet managers are in the driving seat and it is they, rather than the funding provider, who dictate what is best for them.
A tough approach needs to be taken. With hundreds of contract hire and leasing providers all battling for the same fleet business, they should all be hungry and ready to do whatever is necessary to win. In fact stretching potential providers during the tendering process to prove they can meet your demands can actually be rather fun.
Operators need to consider a number of factors when deciding who will be the best provider for their business.
This needs to begin at the proposal stage and fleet managers need to test the boundaries of the funding provider, according to Sally Weeks, procurement and facilities manager at Maxxium UK. She suggests asking for quotes for a contract hire package and then when the quote arrives, asking for something different.
She explained: ‘If they can jump through hoops it will show how they will work in the future. Honesty and flexibility are the two key issues.’
Simple questions such as: ‘Does the company offer additional services aside from funding?’ or: ‘Does the company offer services for both fleet managers and drivers?’ also need to be asked at this stage.
Sales people often promise the earth at these proposals but Clive Forsythe, sales and marketing director at Masterlease, said fleets needed to look for a funding provider which could offer a whole package.
He said: ‘Obviously there are many areas that fleets need to consider when choosing the right funding supplier, from IT capability to service level agreements. However, the most important thing to look for is a service provider which, as well as offering a tailored funding solution for your fleet, has a wide range of vehicles and added value services.’
One way of ensuring funding providers deliver promises is to get in touch with other fleet managers using the short-listed firms. They will have plenty of stories, both good and bad.
Diane Miller, European fleet manager for NextiraOne, said: ‘You need to find out what their service is like and the best way to do this is by speaking to their customers.
‘Also read the service level agreement and discover whether they stick to this.
‘The stability of their workforce is also important. Ask about staff turnover as there is no point starting with one account manager to discover that they have left after a couple of months.’
Although fleet requirements can vary, James Comrie, head of wholesale fleet at Alliance & Leicester Commercial Finance, believes that fleets have the upper hand when it comes to dealing with providers.
He explained: ‘In such a competitive market, fleet managers can demand more from their finance providers. Ensuring they are aware of all the options available is crucial to making the most of their business and its growth.’
Most decisions in life require plenty of legwork before the right choice is made and fleet funding is no exception.
Operators need to make a checklist of the services and costs offered by a range of suppliers, as often it is the smaller services which can make a funding package more appealing.
Ian McKenzie, group business development director at FMG Support, said: ‘Explore the full range of services that providers can offer. A salesperson may concentrate on specific areas, but it is useful to understand the range of additional services that many of the top providers offer which cover everything from vehicle provision through to accident management.’
Top tips for finding the right funding provider
Ask a potential funding provider the following questions. If the answer to the majority of them is no, consider looking elsewhere:
Source: Masterlease and LeasePlan