The location of the Global Fleet Conference alternates on an annual basis between Europe and the U.S., and this year we were fortunate enough to attend in warm, sunny Miami. Therefore, it was a bit of a surprise to step out of the airport into a very humid ninety-degree atmosphere and then experience hard intermittent rain showers at the same time! Luckily enough for us, the weather held back, the umbrellas were closed back up, and the conference was uninterrupted by any adverse conditions.
The Hilton Miami Downtown did an excellent job organizing and hosting the event. Thanks also to the great team at Bobit Media and of course, LeasePlan's very own event manager, the inimitable Kayla Bailes, whom I'm sure most who attended pestered at some point over the course of the week with executive and logistical questions.
Over 350 attendees made the trip, some from as far away as Australia. As a relative newcomer to both LeasePlan and the fleet sector, it was great to see so many industry giants coming together to share years of expertise and valuable insights. The wealth of experience and depth of knowledge was evident throughout the entire schedule.
Digitization – strengthening the buyer's market
Whilst I could only attend a limited number of presentations, seminars and discussions, it was clear to me that the fleet industry was almost entirely aligned on the issues and trends that they'll face together over the next decade or so.
Everyone referenced the transformation that the industry is experiencing, and the importance of digitization supporting that transformation. There were individual sessions on more focused topics of course, such as: safety, electric vehicles, connected vehicles, and telematics, but all returned to the core issues of data, development, and digitization.
Transformation and digitization aren't new buzzwords though, and neither are they groundbreaking trends for the industry. The differentiator now is the speed at which these technologies are being adopted, and the corresponding demand from end-users for these technologies. "Consumer centricity" was mentioned plenty over the course of the week, and I think it's an important point to make that we've now seen a shift away from product centricity and moved toward more tactical business-driven models. Customers now more than ever have serious buying control because of the data that is afforded to them and indeed expected from us as providers of these services.
"We're in the era of the customer journey, and it's very much about envisaging the digital opportunity through the customer journey lens." Matt Dyer, CEO LeasePlan USA
Businesses are beginning to understand that they need to distinguish themselves and compete on the customer journey by providing the ultimate customer experience.
Difficult choices – the consultative approach is still appreciated
Another key takeaway was the difficulty that some businesses are having in identifying the most important digital strategies to focus on. The speed and spread of this stuff is sometimes bewildering, and I can see how easy it could be to get lost in a vast sea of buzzwords. Should we be investing long-term in autonomous vehicle technology for our fleet? Maybe telematics? Or will the EV revolution predominate all of these other issues as environmental sustainability becomes more and more significant? No one had an answer, and I don't think there is an answer. There is no singular approach or winning strategy. But that's where fleet management companies come in ÂÂÂââ to provide guidance, advice and continual support.
It was made clear at the conference that the consultative approach is still appreciated, as the global fleet community continues to rely on support from us, making sure that they get the best use from their data and digital, and making sure that they are adopting the right technologies at the right time, for the right customers.
The fleet manager's role will evolve
All of these digital disruptions and developments are enabling new products, services and business models, including new approaches to financing and insurance services. These advances are reshaping the future of fleet management and consecutively reshaping the role of the fleet manager. We heard ad infinitum how the role will be heavily influenced by technology, data, and critically, analytics. Therefore, in order to be successful in this new future, fleet managers will need to be the early adopters, the technological guides, the walking-talking FAQ sheets for their clients. The technology will enable them to do these things, but they must also embrace this new direction and understand that the customer will come to not only want data transparency and analysis, but expect it. Fleet managers may even be more accurately defined as fleet controllers, with a keen eye not only for automotive and fleet, but for IT systems and infrastructure.
Welcoming Matt Dyer to the stage
The topic of sustainable mobility is generally dominated by discussions around electric vehicles, charging points, new green initiatives for cities, ride-sharing, etc. However, there's an alternative definition that is perhaps more important for fleet management companies, and of course, the fleet manager. Sustainable mobility in this context refers to keeping your fleet healthy, relevant, and proactively managed at both a global and national level, and topically, how managing the data around your fleet can help you do this. This was the basis for Matt Dyer's presentation on Thursday and I must say, I think it landed very well with the audience and provided some probing points for them to discuss. I'd also say that visually, the presentation was the best I'd seen on screen all week, but then again, I would say that I made it.
Until next time!
About the author
Ollie Lindrup is a digital content strategist at LeasePlan USA, a global leader in #fleetmanagement services. He is responsible for developing and executing an integrated marketing and communications program, promoting awareness of LeasePlan USA and increasing engagement with the brand online and in the media. And if you’re reading this, he must be doing something right.