Fleet management companies are a dime a dozen, nowadays. For the most part, they all offer the same fleet management services and leasing options. It has become something of a “me-too” industry. So, if all fleet management companies appear equal, how can anyone know what sets one apart from the pack?
Understanding Industry challenges
The business of fleet management has become more complicated than ever. Our industry is impacted by anything from the financial market to vehicle manufacturers; things that neither fleet management companies nor their clients have any control over. With this complexity brings the need for companies to develop strategic fleet management solutions. Take the supply chain of vehicles, for example. Lead times for vehicles, particularly trucks, are much longer than most of our clients initially expect, making it difficult for them to plan for their future vehicle fleet needs. With some lead times as much as 12 – 16 weeks out, without the proper planning and strategy, clients are left without the vehicle they need to run their businesses efficiently for a time. This can be frightening for most of our clients, especially when they are depending on their vehicles to support their businesses. The key is helping customers think more proactively; providing them tools, processes and methodologies to support a successful fleet management strategy.
Understanding client challenges
While all fleet management companies are not created equal, not all clients are created equal either. Each of our clients has their own set of challenges, yet something we hear more often than not is the challenge of developing a true fleet management strategy. One of the “go to” questions I always ask is, “What is your strategy to deal with your fleet?” Most respond with some type of basic explanation in which one of their employees juggles the company’s vehicle fleet with the rest of the hats he/she wears. Rarely, do I receive a reply that indicates a well-formed fleet management strategy that uses their fleet of vehicles as a tool to help them reach their business goals.
“But, think about it,” I reply to them. “If it was payroll expense, you would have a strategy. If it was inventory, you would have a plan.” Yet they don’t have a plan around fleet. So, spending time providing fleet management advice and counsel is important trait for a fleet management company. Offering information in a portal, for example, would be valuable but interpreting that information helps clients better understand and then think about their vehicle fleet in a more proactive way.
Have you ever been given instructions in a foreign language and been told, “Here, figure these out?” Sure, you could spend hours Googling words and phrases in an attempt to translate into English, and then spend more time following those translated instructions to build whatever it is they are meant for. But who has the time or patience for all of that? I’m sure you could find many other ways to make more efficient use of your time. So, shouldn’t it be no different when working with the right fleet management company? Referring back to my previous example of receiving information through a portal, I have heard a number of potential clients tell me that they have collected or have been given information regarding their fleet; charts, graphs, stats. Yet they struggle to interpret that information on their own. Because fleet management is not their specialty, they typically aren’t able to see the potential fleet strategy that lies behind the sea of information. Enter the fleet management consultant. This true consultant spends a lot of time providing advice and counsel to clients quite similar to the way a wealth manager provides that professional advice and counsel on the best management of your wealth funds.
My Final Answer
So, are all fleet management companies created equal? Not when you look past the bells and whistles and into the way the company works to understand industry and client challenges. Or the way they use those challenges, while providing a true consultative experience, to develop a solid fleet management strategy.