By Janice Sutton
We were delighted to have the opportunity recently to talk with Brian Wright, Senior Vice President of Products and Service at Donlen Corporation, about the fleet management company’s mobile technology. In this interview, Brian tells us about the significant cost savings that fleets are enjoying as the result of putting this technology in the hands of fleet drivers.
He says, “We believe that these mobile apps and the other ways of talking to drivers in real-time and giving directions in real-time in a convenient manner is going to be the key to actualizing cost reductions versus just identifying them through the big data that takes place today.”
Q: Brian, let’s talk about mobile technology. How is mobile technology helping fleet managers today?
Mobile technology is taking an ever increasing role in the fleet manager’s tool kit, and through this technology they can really control and optimize their fleet policy. There is an interaction between the big data and the analytics that has come in and is at the disposal of fleet managers. The one tool that they have to interact real-time in the fleet management processes are these mobile apps. So, as we are evolving our ability to give fleet managers the prescriptive actions that they need at their fingertips, mobile apps become the primary tool to interact with that driver to perform the fleet management responsibilities that conform with that optimal policy.
Q. Are fleets that have adopted mobile fleet technology seeing some cost benefits?
I think the fleets that are early adopters to Donlen’s mobile fleet technology are seeing the benefits most easily with our fuel finder functionality. By providing drivers with mobile technology that enables them to locate where they are today, locate where the stations around them are and what the current fuel station price is, we have developed an algorithm that allows for fleets to direct drivers to the optimal fuel station based on route, driving time and price of fuel. Fleets are seeing savings of 5-7 cents a gallon on their fuel purchases. When they are purchasing millions of gallons a year, it adds up to real money pretty quickly.
Q. What is the advantage of having preventive maintenance alerts pushed to drivers?
The benefits of preventive maintenance alerts is just that. Drivers are using that vehicle as a tool to get their job done within their business, whether they are selling or delivering a product or servicing an infrastructure. They are not primarily thinking about what they need to do to maintain that vehicle. By providing timely notices to the driver, the driver keeps maintenance top of mind and they make sure that the preventive maintenance is performed on that vehicle. Fleets that are using that today in Donlen’s system are seeing a 15 percent differential versus those who are using the more standard email technology that has been around for some time.
Q. What are your fleet managers telling you about their experience with their drivers being able to use this technology?
What fleet managers are saying today about mobile apps is changing to what we were hearing in the past. In the past there was a little bit of resistance to the new technology, uncertainty about how that would encroach upon the driver’s life. It is similar to the things that we see in the telematics space, where fleet managers are not sure they want to interact with the driver at an intimate level.
But what fleet managers are seeing is that this is a tool to help them actually prevent costly repairs by ensuring the preventative maintenance is done. It provides feedback to drivers on how they score on their trips, if they are taking the optimal routes, and where to purchase fuel. So, it gives fleet managers an easier, more seamless way to ensure that drivers are behaving in the right way and taking care of their vehicles which in the end helps the fidelity of their fleet policy.
Q. When drivers use mobile apps, what type of cost reductions are fleets seeing when drivers go to approved maintenance providers?
The difference between going to an approved maintenance provider and an independent garage has been well documented in the fleet industry. There is a 10 percent savings or so available to folks by going to the pre-negotiated national account provider. So, the more national account utilization for preventive maintenance you can get, the more your cost reductions will go up. There is a direct relation to your overall maintenance cost that takes place.
So, just like we look at preventive maintenance compliance, or what we call PM compliance, we also look at national account utilization; we closely monitor those folks who are leveraging the technology on mobile apps. We have a feature where we only show national accounts that the driver can go to. So, a driver can’t go in there and just look up any service provider that is down the street. It tells them exactly where they need to go and it is already a preapproved, national account vendor that is there. So, again, just like we are seeing in preventive maintenance, we are also seeing that national account utilization also goes up as the result of this, as well.
And really, Janice, the difference is providing drivers explicit instructions as to where to get the vehicle taken, all within their fingertips reach. It is not as if drivers are trying to be contra to the fleet policy, they just don’t know and it is not convenient for them to find where that location is. Through these mobile apps you are aligning the driver’s convenience with what is the most optimal way to get that maintenance performed.
Q. What are some of the chief issues that fleet managers are concerned over?
The biggest concerns or opportunities within the mobile technology world is to use that technology not only to drive better preventative maintenance or improved compliance to their fleet policy, but also as a tool to get real-time feedback on the moments of truth that occur in the fleet management process.
One of the things that fleet management companies and fleet managers have both struggled with is the delivery experience of the vehicle. That delivery experience is probably one of the largest moments of truth for the driver. They are excited to get their new vehicle and when they have a positive experience it reflects very positively on the fleet manager and it reflects very positively on the fleet management company. When they don’t have a good experience it has the opposite effect. It is a difficult moment of truth to manage because neither the fleet manager nor the fleet management company is there when that takes place.
What we are developing in our mobile apps is actually a pinging survey technology so that in each of these moments of truth we can get real-time feedback from the driver through the mobile app. They can rate what the experience with this dealer was on a five-star system. That enables us to see the information that we need so we can manage our supplier base much more closely to those moments of truth.
I may have a dealer who charges a great courtesy delivery fee but if they don’t give the driver a great delivery experience, the short-term gain is not worth the long term pain that that may provide. So, by having that type of information that goes back into our system we can provide much better supplier management and control more of that moment of truth experience. That happens at dealers when the vehicles are delivered, that happens at a time when vehicles are maintained. So, if you look at all of the suppliers that we partner with, we can begin to develop criteria by which we evaluate them on a new dimension through those mobile apps.
Our mobile app platform works both on iOS and Android. It is available for download from each of those different app stores. We have seen customers who use that app not only on company issued phones but they also download that app on their personal phone as well. As long as we have an email address for that driver we can make sure they get authenticated, get a password that is secure and then they can interact with us. Again, it works whether it is a company issued phone or not on those platforms.
Q. What’s ahead in this space?
I think the future with mobile apps and the explosion of data that is taking place in fleet management through technologies like telematics; additional data that we are receiving from vendors has created a much more robust set of data. Mobile apps have become even more important as time goes on because we can interface with the driver at those key points in the fleet management cycle. This will optimize the fleet performance. We believe that these mobile apps and the other ways of talking to drivers in real-time and giving directions in real-time in a convenient manner is going to be the key to actualizing cost reductions versus just identifying them through the big data that takes place today.
Brian Wright serves as Senior Vice President, Products and Services at Donlen, responsible for the entire lifecycle of all product offerings from strategic planning through execution.
Brian is a 20 year veteran of the fleet industry with leadership experience in all aspects of the fleet management. At GE Capital Fleet Services, Brian held a number of leadership positions including Chief Marketing Officer and General Manager, Vehicle Life Management.
Prior to joining Donlen, Brian served as Senior Vice President, U.S. Channel and Alliance Markets at Ceridian Corporation, where he previously held the position of Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. During his tenure, he doubled new sales revenue by managing a growing portfolio of indirect commercial partnerships and channels of this $100 Million division.
Brian’s expertise includes strategic marketing, product development, Six Sigma methodologies, change management and P&L discipline. He received his Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification in 2003 and he is the recipient of several awards, including the GE Pinnacle Award and the GE Fleet Services President’s Award.
Brian holds a BA from Westmont College, in Santa Barbara, CA and a Master’s degree from Duke University, Durham, NC.