The efficiencies of fleet management software
Peter Marsden, principal consultant at business change consultancy Entec Si, on how the latest fleet software solutions can bring indepth benefits to fleets looking to move on from spreadsheets.
For businesses with a fleet of company cars, overseeing the vehicles for their entire lifecycle — from contract procurement through to maintenance and upgrades — can be complex and time-consuming. In light of this, an unprecedented shift has been taking place in the sector around more flexible, customised solutions, rather than what was previously a simple leasing/financing arrangement for the vehicles.
The development of fleet management programmes has begun to recognise this shake up of the industry, making the handling of bulk leases and customer choice increasingly straightforward for both employees and business leaders. So exactly how can these systems improve efficiencies to encourage a stress-free lease and how can businesses ensure they’re making the most of them?
Like almost every industry, the world of fleet management is undergoing fundamental changes driven by technological innovations, putting a greater focus on improving customer experience. The industry has quickly become much more customer driven, with service and choice at the heart of the design, alongside the end-to-end integrated process.
Increasingly, fleet management programmes are using cloud-based software to enhance the end-to-end customer experience, offering businesses visibility of their vehicles in real-time, via a range of devices. These innovative programmes can offer several processes, from selecting and ordering a vehicle, through to performance monitoring and more sophisticated route planning and booking services.
This technology offers enormous efficiencies for fleet managers, allowing for an increasing number of manual tasks to be automated. Billing and invoices can be sent and received automatically, and contracts and car models can be updated at the touch of a button. Even more complex financial and management processes, including salary sacrifice calculations, can be completed through an online app. Furthermore, these applications can also contain a wealth of real-time information when linked to the fleet, allowing both employees and businesses to achieve a more in-depth understanding of customer needs and the vehicle’s performance, including vehicle metrics, mileage and fuel economy.
By connecting these programmes to the vehicles’ manufacturers, the system can recognise when a vehicle is due for a service, search for a nearby dealership and make contact, before offering a selection of available dates, times and locations to the driver. These functions also give businesses access to in-depth information, such as popular trends amongst their employees, and a more intelligent capture of key data. This data can then be used to make more informed choices, and therefore achieve better deals with the manufacturers based on their specific needs and user profiles.
Fleet management systems can also inspire employee engagement initiatives, such as incentive and rewards schemes for careful or efficient drivers. The introduction of vehicle telematics can have a significant impact on driver behaviour, speed and fuel consumption, as well as wear and tear to the vehicle. For instance, if an individual is usually late with their servicing, this will have a knock-on effect on fleet costs. However, by fitting telematics equipment to the vehicle, businesses can monitor such behaviour and improve the vehicle’s overall condition, using additional incentives such as add-on benefits, vehicle upgrades, vouchers or discounts.
When implementing a vehicle management programme, it is important to produce a clear assessment and plan, detailing the business’ fleet objectives. These systems can be fairly broad in terms of their content and the range of applications they offer. As such, it is crucial that a business understands what specific aspects they will need and what may be an unnecessary expense, depending on the size and scale of the organisation. It is also worth reaching out to other users of fleet management programmes to consider their experiences and gauge which elements they have found most worthwhile before making a firm decision. Focused customer surveys and feedback will help to shape the overall proposition for the fleet.
It is advisable to focus on particular services first, based on meeting targeted needs rather than offering the world to the employees from the beginning. For instance, clear financial impacts and processes, along with mobile app utilities, are likely to be at the forefront of most employees’ preferences. Therefore, these factors should be a top priority when deciding how to implement the programme.
As the technology infrastructure continue to grow, there is no doubt that enhanced versions of these applications will become available in future. There are new ‘disruptors’ coming into this market which could significantly impact how fleet management businesses operate in the future. The shift to ‘pay-per-use’ for car usage is already emerging and may start to impact the longer-term lease model, again providing customers with increased choice and flexibility depending on their specific needs. However, with programmes such as this still in their infancy, businesses should make sure to offer simple yet effective solutions first, before looking to branch out into more complex offerings.
It is becoming clear that in the modern world the driver’s all-round experience is key. With the implementation of a fleet management programme, and a clear strategy as to exactly what this will entail, businesses can streamline employee processes and drive productivity, all while embracing effective innovation leading to an enhanced customer experience.