This annual survey, now in its second year, is designed to provide an industry "report card" of the services and products offered in the commercial fleet management market by fleet management companies (FMCs), automakers, and upfitters. As was revealed in last year's survey, fleet managers are mostly satisfied with the products and services available to them; this sentiment was validated once again with the 2014 survey.
This year, the survey has been broken into two parts. Part one rates how the FMCs are serving their fleet customers. Part two examines how fleet managers view their OEM suppliers. In addition, there are two sidebars. The first sidebar examines the successes and challenges fleet managers are having with their senior management. The second is an upfitter report card (pick up the print issue for this).
Below are suggestions from fleet managers — in their own words — on how FMCs can improve the services offered to them. Responses have been kept anonymous so as not to identify specific OEMs, FMCs, or upfitters.
Overall, fleet managers rated their fleet management companies highly. Specific areas of high praise, included:
- Ease of ordering/acquisition process.
- MVR & fleet safety services.
- Overall customer service and ability to resolve problems.
In the spirit of continuous improvement, fleet managers offer their suggestions for further improvements to fleet management company services. See below.
Improvement in Client Service/Administration
"The first service an FMC will sell is their fleet administration program; this is also their weakest product. These associates are being asked to cover multiple companies; each needing unique assistance. Instead, drivers are receiving responses that rarely answer specific questions and are redirected back to the fleet manager. Company vehicles are a critical aid in helping employees meet job requirements and need immediate corrective actions or information. Each internal department does not collaborate together; instead each acts separately, including the sharing of information, leading to longer response times. I've had drivers tell me they would rather call their cable company instead of the FMC. In the end, it all results in adding additional administrative work back to the fleet manager."
Improvement Needed in Data Integrity
"There is inaccurate reporting when utilizing an FMC's service, such as maintenance, accident services, TCO analysis, etc. FMCs need to present true data, good or bad. Burying the underlying increase/decrease of costs due to underperforming services or overall inattentiveness to details can obstruct a constructive three-year lifecycle analysis. Unfortunately, we see FMCs using this same data to sell extra services, such as increased driver training, premium fleet administration, or 'additional value-added services.' Inconveniently, the ROI only seems to be short-term and loses its value quickly.
"In addition, FMCs seem to be decreasing headcount in the most critical areas. We are seeing account managers overseeing three to four accounts. In turn, fleet managers are not receiving attention to detail, resulting in inaccurate data and waiting longer for recommendations. Reliance on 'internal systems,' trusting, but not verifying information, and lack of common sense is adding more administrative tasks back to the corporate fleet manager."
Improvement Needed with Courtesy Deliveries
"The fleet management companies need to form better relationships with the dealerships they are using for courtesy/drop-ship deliveries. They need to stay up-to-date with the individuals in charge of fleet deliveries at the dealership level as well as keep ongoing report cards with each dealership. A simple e-mail to the driver asking how their experience with the dealership was would be a great start. Some fleet management companies keep report cards on dealerships, but only by the feedback they get from fleet managers calling with bad experiences. Why not send out a quick five-question e-mail to each driver? (It could be automated by a trigger once the management company gets signed paperwork back from the dealership.) Even though the dealership is separate from the management company, in most cases, it is still a reflection on the management company when it says the dealership is part of its preferred dealership list and the driver has a terrible experience."
FMCs Need to Provide More Flexibility in Services Offered
"I only deal with one leasing company, but, from that perspective, I believe that it needs to improve its flexibility in catering to its customers as individual companies. All companies have different cultures and different needs, and the leasing companies tend to try to have as close to a one-size-fits-all set of solutions as possible. I would like to see more ability to customize programs. Listening better to their customers and trying to meet the needs would be the best way to start this transformation."
FMCs Need to Provide More Transparency
"As corporations outsource more services to the FMCs, they will be expected to provide a more transparent overview of what they are doing to earn their keep and further disclose the relationships that exist between them and suppliers and vendors to their clients. Many C-level executives would be surprised to learn what ROI FMCs receive on their accounts and would likely balk at some of the rebate and discount programs they fund, but might not benefit from directly."
FMCs Need to Provide More Face-to-Face Contact
"More than broadcast e-mails or reading about it in a trade publication, pick up the phone or go sit down face-to-face with your customers even when things are going bad. Actually, it's more important to do so when things are going bad. We don't like bad news, but, if you present it to us with some alternatives or possible solutions, then you've actually helped us. There needs to be a focus more on operations and less on sales. You may talk someone into doing business, but, if you can't support them, then you won't keep it for long."
FMCs Need Better Follow-Through
"My magic wand would empower folks to actually do what they write down. If you go to the trouble of meeting with a customer and taking notes, then how about actually doing something with them?"
Lagging Behind in Managing 'Big Data'
"For the FMCs and OEMs I have the same answer. Both are lagging far behind the rest of the world in managing 'Big Data.' In short, the data exists for nearly every miniscule component of anything an FMC, OEM, or driver touches. This data exists and both the FMCs and OEMs have nearly totally failed to manage this data for the betterment of their own companies and their clients' behalf to any real extent. An example of the use of such data for real improvements is lean manufacturing, which has been practiced for some time.
"Fleet management companies need to improve their ability to analyze 'Big Data' and provide proactive analysis. For example, in the state of Washington, is my TCO better utilizing a Rogue, an Equinox, or an Escape; given the current variables that make up my negotiated pricing? In addition, what 'options' can I invest in that will benefit driver engagement and have the biggest impact at resale?
"As for bringing about this improvement, the data should already be available in a multitude of systems utilized by the FMCs and will just need to be data mined and made available to slice and dice by the fleet decision maker."
FMCs Not Fully Utilizing Data They've Collected
"While both OEMs and FMCs can provide customers with data, both fail to commit to the infrastructure and people costs to use this data to improve themselves and, therefore, their service."
More Transparency When Moving Vehicles
"There needs to be more visibility to the vehicle moves that the FMC performs using third-party relocation companies. Every other aspect of the FMC services is available on their website except for this service. Moving vehicles is costly and time sensitive, and is usually due to a down car in a location in another part of the country or due to a new hire. Currently, the manager has to constantly call or e-mail the FMC to ask for a status update of the move — often waiting a day or two for a response. Major third-party relocation companies have websites that can be set up as 'view only' so the managers can track individual moves. There's no reason at all why the FMCs can't make this available to their customers."
More Responsiveness on Warranty Claims
"FMCs need to be more responsive on warranty claims that we ask them to make to the manufacturer, but it's like pulling teeth to have them keep track of those claims and follow up on them. Everybody says they do this, but nobody does it!"
FMCs Need to Treat Outsourcing as a Value-Added Service
"When replying to requests for more outsourcing of day-to-day operations, FMCs should view it as truly an added value at the subject-matter-expertise level and not just view it as a money-making proposition."
FMCs Need to Do a Better Job with Personal-Use Reporting
"My fleet management company struggled with a good process for personal-use mileage reporting and accuracy because they had separate databases for vehicles and drivers. I believe this area needs improvement by having a combined database. I also believe the modeling of total vehicle lifecycle costs can improve by incorporating the time value of money into the calculation. For example, if total costs reflected a high residual value in year four, then an NPV calculation should be used to value the analysis."
Improve Account Management
"Have people you can go to for special projects other than your very busy account executive. Most of us have unique problems, and if each leasing company could have designated people who do nothing but assist their clients with special projects, it would be a great help. Unfortunately, this does not seem to occur as account executives seem to be traveling all the time."