Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

If you are a manager responsible for fleet you know how challenging it is to excel in your profession. It’s not your imagination. For many leaders, this is viewed simply as being it-is-what-it-is. However, for those interested, added knowledge can lead to higher levels of success.

But there are fundamental misperceptions that can hold back even the most talented fleet manager from operating a successful, efficient fleet operation, as the following 15 misperceptions demonstrate.

Misperception 1: Customer Service Fundamentals are Simple and Common Knowledge

Almost everyone provides services to others. And yet, most of us have never had any formal training on one of the most important functions in our lives — providing customer service.  As a result, we learn through experience, combined with what’s generally accepted as common knowledge on this subject.

Misperception 2: As a Result, There’s Nothing More to Learn

First, general customer service knowledge is typically incomplete, misleading, and fails to support optimal success — particularly for internal support functions.  And, second, because this accepted limited knowledge appears so simple, it leads to the mistaken belief that customer service is so obvious that further study offers no value.

In addition, these misperceptions are particularly insidious since we are unaware of them and their associated lost opportunities. 

Misperception 3: Customers are Only Those Paying for the Services Received

This is a mistake. Ignoring other customer groups will inherently limit success. To maximize satisfaction, customers must include not only those receiving and paying for the services, but also the ones that fund and create the services, those receiving related ancillary services, and any others that regulate or impose additional requirements on the services provided.

For example, how many internal support groups view their executives as a primary customer? And yet, these people define your future — both with funding and direction. What about other internal groups such as accounting, finance, safety, HR, EHS, and any others that receive similar ancillary services/support from the service provider? And don’t overlook external regulatory or other entities that similarly impact your success. If your performance falls short with any of these groups, it impacts overall customer satisfaction. Optimal success requires that all customers must be identified and satisfied.

Misperception 4: Personal Knowledge and Experience Provides an Accurate Perspective for Leaders

Unless service providers are at the top of the hierarchy of success, their perspective may be self-limiting. Both their knowledge and experience are often based only on lower levels of success. As a result, opportunities can be overlooked and, in many cases, even disbelieved. This is evidenced by higher levels of success being typically viewed as either impossible or not applicable to their situation.

Most have opportunities to do better, but a requisite foundation is to understand and believe that it’s possible. Without this,service providers can fall into a self-sustaining trap of struggling to survive.

Misperception 5: Relying Solely on a Personal Perspective Leads to Effective Goals

Failing to realize success is relative, often leads to a self-defining future. With a limited knowledge and experience-base, the resultant goals and objectives usually produce comparable lower levels of customer satisfaction.

A service provider struggling to survive defines success as a sustainable future. The usual focus for those in this position is to cut costs. This is the result of a core difference with internal service groups.

Misperception 6: Controlling Service Costs is the Only Influence to Their Organization’s Success

This is the result of a fundamental difference with most internal support groups in that their services aren’t profitable. This often leads to two flawed beliefs. First, support groups can only contribute to their parent organization’s effectiveness or profitability through lower costs. And, second, is to ignore both 1) the contribution of the quality of the services and 2) the internal service provider’s success in enhancing the overall organization’s effectiveness and profitability.

Misperception 7: Cost-Cutting Leads to Success

A sole emphasis on cost-cutting dooms a service provider to living in the survival mode. It ignores the importance of quality and customer perception in achieving optimal customer satisfaction. 

Misperception 8: You Can’t Cut Costs and Improve Service Quality

Lower quality ignores all of the other requirements for higher levels of success. It precludes the ability to excel with service performance, customer experience, any opportunities with win-win customer results, and thus improving the overall organization’s effectiveness and profitability.

Misperception 9: Internal Pricing of Services is Only Important to Accounting

This completely overlooks the critical need for effective internal pricing to manage internal services for the overall organization. A common mistake is to base this methodology only on the parent organization’s accounting needs. This is a lot more common than realized. For many internal service groups, it’s always been this way. As a result, there’s no knowledge or realization of this underlying basic impediment to overall effective management of internal services.

Inaccurate or flawed pricing signals sabotage the ability to manage both costs and effectiveness — of the service provider, its customers, and the overall organization. Inaccurate pricing can create incentives to over-consume services. Similarly, paying customers lose their ability to manage them since they don’t have accurate costs. And what’s worse, it forces the service group into a corner precluding optimal customer satisfaction.  They lose the ability to work with their customers and to achieve win-win results. 

Misperception 10: Service Provider Policies/Dictates are Effective in Managing Customer Behavior

Without effective internal pricing, the only option left for an internal service provider is to attempt to manage customer behavior by dictating policy — not an optimal approach for any service organization.  Customers generally don’t appreciate being told what to do.  This doesn’t contribute to positive perceptions and satisfied customers.

Misperception 11: Perceived Industry Leaders Define Optimal Success

Unless you are a start-up or in high-tech, this probably isn’t the case. If you are a utility or a government agency, it’s almost certainly not the case. There are exceptions though, where service providers provide excellent services through win-win results with customers — exceeding all expectations. These are the ones to learn from and to aspire to their success.

Misperception 12: Marketing Offers No Value for Internal Service Providers

This is based on a misperception that success depends solely on service performance; that lower costs combined with quality services guarantee success. While obviously critical components, it overlooks the vital role of customer perception. Ignoring the importance of managing customer perception will not only limit your success, but also open the door to competitors.

Misperception 13: Embracing Change Results in Unnecessary Risk

For leaders without competition, another misperception is thinking that avoiding change minimizes risk. The reality is that this approach presents the most risk with internal support services. As competition and the threat of privatization increases, being change-averse is tantamount to being suicidal for internal services.

Misperception 14: Process Improvement Change Ensures Success

With the previous misperception in mind, many managers’ experience with change is limited to typically required process improvement. This is another potential trap. Real success is associated with process redesign. Higher levels of success involve requisite knowledge, risk, and an ability to boldly redefine your business.

Misperception 15: Technology is the Key to Success

While this may be true to a point, a sole reliance on technology is misguided and will also inherently limit success. One source of this belief is that technology companies are often associated with success. Another is that technology is so dominant to many internal services, such as fleets; it can become the sole focus — distracting from customer satisfaction.

Going in a New Direction

These insights provide a brief glimpse of how added knowledge can overcome often unseen barriers to higher levels of success. This is only a beginning. Critical best practices, along with associated supporting business tools are required to support this direction as well.

Because these misperceptions and proven solutions are generally unknown, leaders often resign themselves to their situation —simply because they don’t know better. This isn’t a failing on their part; it’s just being unaware of critical differences and associated needs with providing internal supporting services. Accepted common knowledge makes many of these requirements sound quite simple on the surface, but for those who know better — it’s not. 

Editor's note: Tim King retired in 2008 following a 30-year career with what is now NVEnergy, an electric utility based in Las Vegas. He is the author of FLEET SERVICES: Managing to Redefine Success. He can be reached at [email protected]