Interview: Estelle Howick, fleet manager, Pfizer
You are one of a few fleet managers who has also worked as an account manager in a leasing company, so do you have any views on where each could understand the other better?
As a leasing company account manager it takes a lot of effort for leasing companies working in an outsourced situation to be accepted and treated as part of the customer’s business operations; their motives are often unfairly viewed with suspicion and they can struggle to forge relationships within the hierarchy of internal stakeholders, which is a really key area for suppliers to large corporates.
Do they get the respect they deserve?
Not always. There are many leasing companies who save their clients a lot of money when it comes to giving advice and valuable analysis, but this expertise is not always taken advantage of as much as it could be – probably because of the suspicions previously mentioned! It is also frustrating for the leasing company when a lot of groundwork has been done to design and propose a suitable solution, which can then take ages to get the go ahead.
How can leasing firms be used better?
Most leasing companies are an under-utilised resource. A good helpdesk with intelligent, knowledgeable staff is crucial in an outsourced situation as they bear the brunt of the driver contact.
Time must be spent empowering the helpdesk to be familiar and confident with policy and procedure and more importantly, the culture of the organisation; particularly the preferred tone and style of response so as to minimise escalation.
How important is a good account manager?
Essential. He or she is your advocate and champion and their ability to influence the service levels or commercial arrangements is important. They are also a good sounding board for solutions.
Flexibility from your leasing company is important too as the service must evolve and flex to meet the needs of the organisation.
Time for a hobby outside of work?
Badminton, getting to the gym, dancing to Salsa music and I also like to cook.
If you weren’t a fleet manager, what would you do?
These days it would be voluntary work but when younger I studied Law and still find it interesting.
I got into fleet by chance really 23 years ago.
What are your two main fleet issues?
Driver safety is a real focus for me; as is our car policy in terms of vehicle choice. Trying to please all the people all the time isn’t possible but we are working hard to ensure that our drivers remain happy with their choice of new car whilst still saving money and reducing carbon emissions.