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How the fleet space is ‘consumerising’ the B2B offering

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Albert Chu, VP marketing & strategy, Masternaut, on how techniques seen in the consumer space are expanding into the fleet sector, bringing benefits to operators and drivers.

Albert Chu, vice president of strategy and marketing, Masternaut

Albert Chu, vice president of strategy and marketing, Masternaut

In recent years, commercial fleets have been offered a wealth of technology solutions promising to transform their operations – ranging from telematics to job dispatch and scheduling to route optimisation. While there is substantial value in much of this technology, fleet operators are time-poor, and many have found it challenging to integrate multiple new systems into their daily routines, particularly if they are unintuitive or even work at cross-purposes with each other.

As always-on technology increasingly blurs the lines between our personal and professional lives, we have come to expect that both consumer and business apps are easy to use.

Professional services firm Accenture published a report last year that spoke to this expectation. They found that B2B customers increasingly want the personalised, frictionless interactions they experience with B2C technology. By 2025, more than half of industrial transactions will be executed online, and the majority of B2B customers will have an online touch point at some stage between research and purchase. Companies that fail to invest in simplifying their user experience may be risking 10 to 20% of their revenues.

Across industries, there is a growing realisation that B2B buyers are people first and employees second. Whether it’s the functionality and design of a new iPhone or knowing when a parcel is going to arrive, our desire to be treated as a consumer doesn’t switch off when we walk into the office. B2B technology companies must therefore provide the same levels of service and quality expected when customers are spending their own money; however, there is often a large disparity between the two. Consumer technology is typically designed to be more intuitive, eliminating the need for user guides or explainer videos. However, business technology often comes with large manuals, training days and tough learning curves.

This has recently been changing. Newer business software has enabled fleet operators to become more proactive and agile, providing managers greater visibility of their team in the field and allowing them to monitor planned job schedules more accurately. In addition, a growing number of disruptors have introduced faster, cheaper and simpler technology – such as plug-and-play tracking devices or consumer-grade employee mobile apps. These new technologies are designed to work with the needs of users, complementing their existing systems and processes, rather than slowing them down. As a result, they have integrated naturally into the work of an operations or fleet manager, much as Amazon has done for consumers’ day-to-day purchases.

As B2B technology becomes more customer-centric, users are also given control of the amount of information available to them at any given moment. Much like tracking a Deliveroo motorbike as it approaches your home, or watching your Uber driver get caught up in traffic, modern telematics systems are able to provide fleet operators’ end-users a similar live view of vehicle locations and estimated arrival or delivery times.

This puts service providers in a position to deliver seamless customer service, with live updates on delays, allowing managers to be proactive and agile in redirecting resources where they are most needed. The field worker is also able to see dispatched jobs and details in real time, while logging important notes, enabling a holistic approach to field operations.

Business apps with intuitive interfaces are also gaining popularity; for instance, some apps allow daily work routines to be handled quickly and easily. As an example, some daily vehicle check apps make use of techniques seen in the consumer space, such as the swipe left/swipe right functionality made popular by Tinder.

Finally, there has been a rise in ‘plug-and-play’ fleet monitoring hardware, which can be easily fitted to the vehicle by the user, reducing cost and downtime. This also offers a more flexible solution for fleets for their temporary or grey fleet vehicles, ensuring their commitment to safety, compliance and emissions are consistent across drivers.

It is clear within the fleet industry and beyond that there is demand for simple and intuitive technology in the business world, and if companies fail to keep their offerings in line with this expectation, users will opt to switch providers. The good news is that development of the tools and services to support this shift is well underway, with the fleet space innovating fast to match demand.

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