By Ed Pierce, Contributing Editor
Last year, the merger of Wheels and Donlen made waves in the fleet management world. The combination of these two powerhouse companies has created a true force to be reckoned with in the fleet management industry. With the advantages that scale will bring coupled with both legacy organizations’ relentless focus on customers, Wheels Donlen is well positioned for success. As the two companies become one, they needed to align on a platform strategy that would allow them to best serve their expanding customer base – ensuring that the existing platform strengths of each legacy company could be maximized while also building enhancements to help their customers achieve their fleet and business goals.
Both Wheels and Donlen are well known for offering dynamic and easy-to-use customer experience tools. Their platforms put customers first by including valuable and relevant features in a simple and effective layout. To create its new, integrated platform, the merged company has maintained its “customer-first” mentality by devising a strategy that takes into account customer input from legacy Wheels and legacy Donlen users.
Developing The Platform
The development of the new platform strategy was overseen by Shlomo Crandus, CEO of Wheels Donlen. It was imperative that this process include input and feedback from both employees and clients to ensure all viewpoints were being considered. When it came time to align on the new platform, Crandus and his team of leaders took a very strategic approach.
They first evaluated keeping both existing legacy platforms. However, that would not have been cost-effective to continue to invest in two platforms over time. They also considered building a completely new system from scratch, but that would have taken years to develop. Another option was to simply choose one existing platform, but that would have left some existing clients unhappy. After considering all available options, and carefully weighing the pros and cons of each potential solution, Wheels Donlen decided to pursue a combination of these three, giving them the benefits from each strategy.
“We needed to decide how to address and implement our technology over the next few years,” said Crandus. “What we have decided, that we feel really gives us the best of all worlds, is to start with Wheels system architecture and build in unique and high-value features from the Donlen platform.”
Preparation and a well-defined strategy were the foundation of their roadmap. Many stakeholders participated in the process — cross-functional teams of leaders from both legacy businesses, Operations leaders, IT leaders, and most importantly, existing clients.
“We solicited feedback from more than a thousand individual clients across various fleet sizes and different industries,” said Crandus. “We had some clients that actually currently operate in both Wheels and Donlen platforms. We had super users from each side and we took all of their feedback together with feedback from our internal teams to decide which features were most valuable in both platforms.”
The teams conducted a very thorough exploration of each existing platform to better understand how customers and employees used each, what the user experience was and what, ultimately, would be the best solution for all users. This feedback and hands-on experience helped the team decide which platform would be the better starting platform, provide the best overall user experience and also help the organization get to an end state more quickly.
“I can’t communicate how important this was to our teams and how much they cared,” said Crandus. “The teams worked nights and weekends. They really wanted to make sure we arrived at the right decision. We did not feel pressured to make a quick decision, but rather that it was important to make the right decision. Therefore, we spent five months in order to chart our go-forward path. We feel very confident that we’re going to be able to deliver for our clients and for our employees with our strategy.”
Putting Customers First
The company approached their new platform the same way they always do, by thinking about their customers and what features they want and need. Wheels and Donlen both have strong reputations for exceptional customer service and this process showed that. Every decision was made with the customer at the forefront. Their long-term view, however, also includes the entire community they work with – wanting to meet the needs of customers, employees, and vendors in new ways.
“It is true that we have a reputation for very strong customer service,” said Crandus. “That’s because every decision that we make at Wheels Donlen starts with thinking about our customers. Our main focus is to deliver customer success.
Bringing the New Platform to Market
As the company begins building in new features to the existing Wheels platform, they will start migrating clients over in waves. For many clients, nothing will change immediately. The migration for clients from Donlen to the Wheels platform will be done very thoughtfully and deliberately and only after ensuring that all affected parties – both on the client and Wheels Donlen support team sides – are ready to go. This will ensure that these transitions go smoothly.
Wheels Donlen will first make sure that all of the migrating client’s relevant data is available on the “new” platform, that all functionality has been thoroughly tested and that both the client and their Wheels Donlen account team are completely confident and comfortable prior to finalizing the move. Wheels Donlen understands how vital data integrity is to this migration and is committed to ensuring a seamless transition for its clients.
Because legacy Donlen and legacy Wheels have some products that the other doesn’t, their goal is to bring a more complete set of products to their clients with the new platform. This includes reimbursement services, garage management, pool management, and more innovative reporting just to name a few. While new features are being added, the commitment to clients is that there will be no disruptions in their existing operations. This ensures that they can continue to manage their fleets effectively and efficiently.
A Commitment to Communicate
Communication is another area in which Wheels Donlen excels. While many companies struggle with communication after a merger, Wheels Donlen thrives due to the many levels of governance within the company that have made a commitment to communicate. From their Transition Management Office to the Client Advisory Board, they’re constantly communicating with all key stakeholders, both inside and outside of the company.
“The value in over communicating is that people have a better sense of what’s going on, and they’re not surprised as we advance our thinking,” said Crandus.
This has been evident as the integration group has been communicating to employees every two weeks, which they plan to continue doing. They also send regular updates to clients on the integration to ensure transparency and make sure that all clients feel informed. As Wheels Donlen develops their new platform, their frequent communication with customers allows them to keep up with changing technology.
As the newly merged Wheels Donlen charges forward with the development of their new platform, the company looks to increase the opportunities where they can provide value to their clients wherever possible. Wheels Donlen serves clients across multiple industries – from sales fleets to heavy-duty construction companies.
This unique client base presents many opportunities for Wheels Donlen to provide a myriad of services, including financing and leasing services, made possible in part by its well-financed parent company Athene Holdings. Wheels Donlen is now the most well-financed fleet management company in the industry which gives them the financial resources to invest in new technologies, mobility solutions and other client-benefitting opportunities.
The company also maintains a strong relationship with ALD, a relationship that allows the company to provide the best global value proposition in the industry. This partnership means that Wheels Donlen can serve both the North American and Global needs of all of its clients.
While there’s much that has yet to be revealed about the future, it’s certain to be bright thanks to the company’s continued dedication to its customers. As we’ve come together, we’ve reaffirmed for both organizations how much we love and value putting customers first,” said Crandus. “We continue to be committed to delivering that industry-leading customer service that we are well known for and we are energized for what the future holds both for Wheels Donlen and our clients.”