In many cases, the internal management of fleets is spread across several departments, with varying expertise in the running of vehicles. As such, there is need for contract hire and lease firms to be able to act as fleet managers. Peter Eldridge, director of the Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM), comments on this trend
When evaluating the importance of contract hire and leasing company after sales support and fleet consultancy in today’s marketplace, there are many points to consider.
The fleet industry now operates in an environment that is driven by a whole host of developing technology – connected vehicles; autonomous vehicles; and so‑called ‘big data’ to name but a few.
Loath it or like it, fleet operators and fleet service providers must embrace the challenges and changes that are coming their way if they are to survive and prosper in this brave modern technology‑driven world.
This of course directly impacts on the nature and style of fleet consultancy provided and the ICFM firmly believe that there is real risk associated with the assumption that the technology will take care of itself and that the people involved simply become a bi‑product of the process.
To keep ahead of the game, contract hire companies and fleet service providers must get the mix right when it comes to promoting modern technology‑driven solutions and ensure that all customer facing staff, including their account management and consultancy teams, have the right credentials in respect of providing credible and skills‑based advice to their end user customers.
But it does not end there, what about the new entrants to the fleet arena, particularly those employed on customer helpdesks within contract hire and fleet management businesses?
The provision of ‘soft skills’ training and induction programmes is fine, but does that properly address the more critical issue of ensuring that these employees have the education and skills required to offer competent advice and guidance to the end user vehicle operators?
The management of vehicle fleets, both from the fleet manager and the fleet service provider perspective, has changed beyond all recognition.
There is now less requirement to understand what goes on under the bonnet of a vehicle, but a significantly greater requirement to understand how to operate a vehicle fleet legally, in a compliant manner and overall in a much more strategically aligned operational framework that is more business travel orientated.
Involving all stakeholders
To coincide with this change, we now have a situation where there are more stakeholders in the average fleet operation, with representatives from senior management, finance, HR, compliance, procurement and the fleet departments all having input to a greater or lesser extent. Interacting with these stakeholders now requires a more sophisticated approach, which can only be achieved if the level of skill and knowledge are commensurate with challenge.
That is why at ICFM’s annual conference late last year, we announced new Corporate Investor Programme designed to further raise the standards of fleet industry professionals and overcome a skills and knowledge shortage inside many employers.
Historically, ICFM’s focus has been on fleet manager training and while that continues, industry developments as highlighted above necessitated a requirement for significant training in supplier organisations, which includes contract hire and leasing and fleet management organisations.
With internal management of corporate fleets now, in many cases as mentioned above, diluted across several departments these organisations require external providers to effectively be their fleet managers.
However, that goal can only be achieved if, employees in supplier companies think and act as fleet decision-makers. In turn that will only be successful if those customer-facing members of staff are equipped with the right knowledge, skills and experience.
The new Corporate Investor Programme enables directors and senior managers to engage with ICFM and then ensure staff join a personal development programme delivered by the organisation.
Many businesses have acknowledged a skills shortage in terms of the fleet management knowledge of their employees. Those organisations admit that they are frequently asking employees to perform a role in which they
have limited experience and little knowledge. While employers can delivers soft skills they frequently do not have the resources to fully develop staff to their full potential.
That’s why it is critical that businesses, such as contract hire and fleet management companies, that are selling products and services to fleets, but more recently have adopted a consultancy approach, need to ensure all their customer-facing staff understand how company car and van fleets function.
The Institute Of Car Fleet Management is passionate about investing for the future to ensure that all fleet businesses and their staff promote the right level of human interaction and our criteria for success is simply this – if contract hire and leasing and fleet management companies ensure they have the right people, with the right level of accredited skills and knowledge, it will pay dividends in the long run.