By Ed Pierce, Contributing Editor
In a recent interview with LeasePlan USA CEO and President Matt Dyer, he expressed true excitement about the opportunities for LeasePlan and the industry at the mid-point of 2021. “Coming out of the pandemic, we are building much stronger and are much more focused on how we want to take a step forward for the future,” Matt notes.
“Even though a year ago, we were facing down this pandemic, we have come out of it better than many other businesses. In fact, we grew by over seven and a half percent in terms of fleet under management last year, and we are on track to exceed that this year.” Matt chalks up the growth to “working hard to put our customers first and seeking out improvements across the business.”
Quick Start in 2021
“We are implementing strong plans and are excited with the position that we find ourselves in. One of the upsides for us as a business, as LeasePlan last year, is that we didn’t need to make any furloughs. We didn’t have any redundancies. We were still able to retain employee compensation plans, and we made employee communication and recognition a priority. I think that helped ensure a good tailwind as we moved forward in 2021.”
With a focus on prioritizing the post-COVID challenges LeasePlan’s customers faced, the company launched an employee incentive program that rewarded performances that impacted client loyalty scores, grew the business, and delivered great service along the way. “We feel that sets us up very nicely for what has been a very important part of our culture and also our strategic program, which is ‘customer first’,” says Matt.
Since assuming the position of CEO for LeasePlan USA at the start of 2019, Matt and the U.S. leadership team have underscored the importance of understanding the customers, having employees put themselves in their customers’ seats in order to help them make the best choices.
Augmented Leadership for New Challenges
In April 2021, Matt brought in executive vice president for operations Chris Watkins. Chris brought great experience in terms of process technology and transformation, as well as being a very established operations leader. “The leadership team is strong,” says Matt, “and I am confident that we are ready for the tough challenges that may arise while delivering the right operational performance for our customers.”
A focus on performance led Matt and his team to look at the corporate fleet side and the truck side and strengthen the responsible leadership teams in those areas. “I am really excited about the team that we’ve got and what that means in terms of accelerating through 2021 and really building for the future,” says Matt.
“Last year also saw us build out our support for last mile delivery as a specific proposition within the marketplace. Of course, you can only get to these topics if you’ve got experienced and established and stable leadership. So we really feel very competent about what that’s going to mean for us in our business and for our customers as we progress through 2021, our ‘Build Back Stronger’ year.”
Staying Close to the Customers
“We need to stay focused on communicating with our customers around continued challenges of the post-COVID fleet business. The order-to-delivery process is an example of a challenge our customers face. Staying close to our customers as OEMs change production schedules and change orders based on semiconductor chip issues is one problem, but our customers’ priorities are changing, too.”
He cited the speedy transition to electric vehicles as a trend that LeasePlan customers rely on the company to lead the way: “We must know our customers’ strategic priorities, analyze what they mean for them, and recommend the right options not only in terms of vehicles, but within the framework of an enablement strategy. We are ready to support customers with their infrastructure challenges.”
One example of LeasePlan leading the way to address the electrification challenges customer face is the recent partnership agreement with ChargePoint. LeasePlan is working with ChargePoint to offer solutions to electrify company fleets, networked hardware solutions and services that enable fully-managed EV charging at home and work.
“In addition to home charging services, LeasePlan clients will have access to most of ChargePoint’s more than 110,000 activated places to charge on its network with additional access to thousands more public places to charge across North America through roaming agreements with other EV charging networks,” Matt notes.
Continuous Investments in 2020
He points out that LeasePlan made important investments during COVID to improve the customer experience: “For example, we recently released a new version of our driver app, My LeasePlan. It is an even more valuable day-to-day companion for fleet drivers. The number of things that they can do within the app and the documents they can store within the app are even further enhanced.
We have also improved and invested in cutting-edge CRM capability that gives us much more visibility of interactions taking place in our business from drivers, from fleet managers, and from customers. As a result, we can ensure that we are getting the right work to the right team and focusing on the responsiveness our customers expect from us, recognizing that requests for information and requests for service are an important part of what we deliver for our customers.”
Matt mentioned LeasePlan’s investment in improved processes that extend digitization, including work in the mechanical and maintenance space. “Not only are we using AI and machine learning to help replicate the best decisions,” says Matt. “but we also put in place a service to facilitate digital transactions through an inbound phone call. This allows drivers to get back on the road faster, vendors to get a faster route for approval, and customers to have the best overall experience and best-in-class cost management.”
LeasePlan’s Global Advantage
As a well-recognized global leader in leasing and fleet management, nearly 50% of LeasePlan’s customers have multi-national fleet needs. “That international fleet capability gives us a unique advantage in the U.S. in our ability to serve our customers and in keeping up with industry trends and innovative solutions. Just look at electric vehicles as a good example,” says Matt. “I think it is very fair to say that the European market for electric vehicles is more advanced than the US market. We are able to learn from that, and then really be the leader in the U.S. to help customers accelerate into electric vehicle transition.
“There are other benefits around digitization, too. Our digital roadmap brings together important milestones and goals for both U.S. and global markets. LeasePlan is built to grow through wholly-owned entities, the international approach really does have some strength. Having worked on the sales side with LeasePlan International, I know that our ability to commit to products and services in multiple countries is important for companies that also want to think and act globally.”
Ready for Today’s and Tomorrow’s Fleet Challenges
As everyone knows, the used vehicle market prices continue to grow, and fleets are achieving very attractive resell results, but Matt cautions that the industry must be ready for some inflation: “Oil prices are now over $70 a barrel, driving increases in fuel prices. We are expecting some further inflationary price pressure on in-life services like maintenance parts, accident parts, tires. These are going to put some pressures on budget.
“What I can tell you is that we are proactively helping customers understand the best course of action in response to OEM orders being delayed. Staying close to the customer anytime but especially now, can help ensure smart decisions about how we see orders being impacted. Questions that are arising include, ‘Is it better to run a vehicle longer? Do the growth areas of the business have the new vehicles to ensure optimum operations? Are daily rental prices creating budgetary problems?’
“All in all, it just goes back to probably what I said before, you’ve got to sit in the customer seat, think like they think, bring good proactive suggestions to the table and help the customer implement them. And, if 2020 and 2021 proves anything, it proves that fleet and vehicles are very important to customers and how they do their business. Plus, you’ve got to be really on your toes in terms of responding to a changing situation along the way.”