-  Photo: Gettyimages

Photo: Gettyimages

Fleet managers have been conducting driver opinion surveys for decades. There is nothing inherently wrong with this practice, as the feedback is helpful for selector analysis, interface with third-party suppliers, and gauging overall driver sentiment.

As each new model-year approaches, many managers simply dust off the previous survey and repeat the exercise. Unfortunately, the product of this work earns extremely limited attention from high-level executives.

Limiting the survey to the driver “circle” is based on a business-to-consumer (B2C) mindset exemplified by the retail vehicle surveys most of us have filled out. As an example, JD Powers’ survey is exhaustive, requiring at least 45 minutes to complete, and extremely granular in nature

For fleets, the “consumer” of the Fleet Plan and its execution is far more complex, with tentacles that reach far beyond the driver experience.

To effectively mine these stakeholders for meaningful feedback, a fleet manager should employ a business-to-business (B2B) method. An effective B2B survey approach should thoughtfully consider the priorities of the organization’s direct and indirect consumers.

  1. The department heads to whom the drivers report are concerned about the productivity of the people in the vehicles. Delve into the effect of the Fleet Plan on field employee uptime, ability to carry crew and cargo, conformance to regulations, to name a few areas of concern. Challenge the variables and assumptions in play. For example, what used to require a cargo van with a ton of payload might now be accommodated with a more maneuverable (and cheaper) alternative. If upfitting is required, be sure to solicit this group for their opinion.
  2. The “controllership” function runs from a CFO to the controller to the accounts payable staff. Often, communication between fleet managers and this circle is limited or non-existent. That is a shame, and the root cause of many poor outcomes for which the fleet manager must take responsibility. A good question to ask is in what terms they view the financial efficiency of the fleet; is it net outlay based on CAPEX comparison with previous year, or cents-per-mile, or cost per delivery? Moving down the line to accounts payable, ask are the schedules and invoices easy to follow, and are the payment methods current?
  3. Senior management has the entire organization to worry about, so how do you engage this critical group? The language used in the survey must resonate with high-level needs for interdepartmental harmony, external and internal image, and key organizational initiatives such as reduction in greenhouse gases, improvement in driver safety, or image of the organization projected by the vehicles.
  4. External parties see the organization’s vehicles on a routine basis. They too are fleet “consumers,” Factors to consider include noise, idling, obstruction caused by vehicles, appearance, etc.

Once satisfied that the appropriate stakeholders have been considered, the next step is to weigh the value of the responses and create a composite score that conforms appropriately to the organization and its shared goals.

Ideally, the survey will be preceded by a short, earnest note from a top executive, signaling the value of the fleet to the organization and the importance of stakeholder cooperation. Once responses are collected and scored, analyze the responses and look for key themes that bubble up. These insights should provide valuable data to keep the fleet plan and its execution as relevant as possible.