In today’s fiscal environment, fleet management can be more aptly described as a form of “crisis management.” More often than not, fleet management decisions are driven by senior management’s knee-jerk reactions or by the never-ending need to put out fires. In this reality, it is easy to slip into a reactive fleet management style, managing the fleet from a tactical level, addressing day-to-day crisises with a knee-jerk management approach.
However, in today’s environment, you can’t afford to be reactive. You need to employ a proactive fleet management style, focusing on specific long-term objectives and creating metrics to continually benchmark progress against past performance. It is crucial to track and demonstrate improvements in the fleet’s performance.
Today, more than ever, fleet managers must be goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management. But, in an era of doing more with less, it is important to select your goals wisely.
Focus on the Internal Customer
Your No. 1 goal must be to better serve your internal customers. A proactive fleet manager is intimately aware of the services provided by user departments and what’s needed to fulfill them. They listen to all user departments to understand their objectives. Therefore, in all fleet-related decisions, these fleet managers implement programs that contribute to the achievement of their customers’ goals and anticipate changes in their work environment. Since your primary objective is to manage the fleet to support the objectives of the user groups you support, it requires a customer service mindset, with all work viewed from the customers’ perspective.
How do you measure customer satisfaction? What are the metrics used to measure the performance of fleet operations? There is a quantifiable dollar value associated with customer service. Every hour of downtime costs your organization real dollars in lost productivity. If your fleet organization can’t quantify its performance to management and elected officials, they, most likely, will not understand (nor appreciate) the value of the services you are providing. This lack of understanding is often the catalyst for inquiries that put fleet managers on the defensive, attempting to justify their performance. Fleet managers should not assume management understands their business and knows they are doing a good job. If truth be told, many fleet managers are not vocal enough about their achievements and management is not fully cognizant of their contributions to achieving these goals. Fleet managers are constantly dealing with the newly elected “fleet expert” politician who assumes the fleet is not run efficiently or cost-effectively.
To demonstrate fleet operations is competitive, you must develop performance measures accessible for review by all. It is crucial to educate others, especially management and elected officials, about the fiscal impact of a well-maintained fleet. It is one thing to make a list of everything your team has done, but it is an entirely different matter to show how those accomplishments have affected your political sub-division as a whole. Nowadays, stating all you did is no longer sufficient. You are competing for limited funds and you must demonstrate the value your team brings to the entire organization.
Fleet managers can also increase fleet operation accountability and performance by organizing fleet user com-mittees to address operational issues that arise between fleet operations and user departments. You need to keep feeding metrics back into your processes to continually improve fleet’s performance. Metrics can modify behavior. Push your metrics to your user group customers to show how they can improve departmental efficiency and make fleet more cost-effective. Furthermore, all proactive fleet managers establish cooperative, working relationships with all internal user groups relying on fleet operations, no matter how challenging the personalities are of some individuals. Maintaining an efficient fleet is not a goal, but a never-ending journey.
Nothing creates more credibility than for senior management to hear other departments compliment fleet operations on the quality of customer service they receive. But, to receive the praise, you must earn it.
Fleet’s Greatest Asset
With today’s anemic tax base, fleet managers are under ongoing pressure to reduce expenses by proactively seeking to maximize the productivity of each asset at the lowest possible cost. A fleet manager can validate his or her importance day-in and day-out by cost-effectively managing millions to tens of millions of dollars of assets to provide the services taxpayers demand and need.
In the final analysis, proactive fleet managers can save substantial taxpayer dollars by implementing effective fleet policy, maximizing fleet utilization, right-sizing the fleet, and optimizing user department productivity. To accomplish this, you must be proactive, not reactive, in your approach to fleet management.
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