Under the Microscope: We talk to Ogilvie Fleet's MD, Gordon Stephen
20 April 2017
Author: Debbie Wood
Ogilvie is a firm that has always placed customer service at the heart of its business. It's an approach that has won them many awards and helped to deliver consistent growth over the past few years.
With a risk fleet of over 14,500 vehicles, Ogilvie is not a small leasing company by any stretch, but in comparison to Lex Autolease and Leaseplan, which have fleet sizes of over 333,000 and 165,000 respectively, managing director Gordon Stephen admits the company doesn't have the same levels of awareness that other brands enjoy, particularly from potential customers in the south of England, where Ogilvie is still relatively unknown.
That's all set to change in 2017, though, with a team in place ready to win business in the south and new IT innovations aiming to ensure Ogilvie becomes one of the most modern leasing company's within the UK.
Tackling the south
Well-known in Scotland, where the company was founded, last year Stephen put together a team to cover regions further south, focusing on Birmingham and further south, which has now grown to four people. The plan for the team is to build awareness for the Ogilvie brand and help to expand the fleet by 1,000 cars this year and grow up to 20,000 vehicles within the next five years.
"We're still quite a small leasing company. In Scotland we're quite well known but now we have a team in the south, where we are not well known at all. We're trying to get our name out there as much as possible," Stephen tells BusinessCar. Consistent and profitable growth is the key, and although hitting targets is important, Stephen is keen to point out that Ogilvie will not be doing any aggressive deals to reach those targets.
"If we think, 'Crikey, we're 200 vehicles off our target,' we're not going to go out there and do some daft deals because we've got to be expecting to make money," he says.
Stephen places service as the most important factor for gaining and retaining customers, and being the cheapest isn't something the firm strives for.
"If it comes down to price, there's always going to be someone cheaper. What we try to do is always offer good value for money. If the customer knows that their drivers are happy
and being engaged with, price becomes less important."
That philosophy has won Ogilvie Fleet a string of industry awards in recent years including the Experteye Fleeteye CSI (customer satisfaction index) Award in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the 2015 CSI award for top leasing company in the more than 250-vehicle category.
There are now 84 people working within the Ogilvie Fleet team - five years ago there were under 50, and when Stephen moved up to the managing director role back in 1998 there was just eight people running a fleet of 1,500 vehicles. Alongside the now 14,500 contract
hire vehicles, Ogilvie also manages around 1,500 vehicles for fleets, and is starting to branch out in other areas of the industry, such as daily rental, which has been a huge area of growth for the business.
"We're quite an ambitious company. We're always going to grow organically, but if an opportunity comes our way then we will certainly look at it, especially things around the fringes of contract hire," Stephen says.
He and his team have been proactively going to customers and finding out what they spend on daily rental and putting together a bespoke offering. All the key rental players' prices are compared to help deliver the best price for the customer, including short-term, long-term and van rentals.
"The service we've been giving on daily rental has been exceptional. Five years ago we would have been doing about £500,000 of business in daily rental; this year we will do around £5 million, which is a massive increase, and customers like it because they can rely on us," Stephen explains.
Investing in IT
To keep ahead of the competition, companies have to keep innovating and Ogilvie has been investing heavily in its IT systems to stay ahead of the curve. The Happy Driver app is just one of the firm's recent innovations and includes parking information, a wear-and-tear checklist, a tax calculator and an EV charging station finder tool, which is available for all drivers. Around 2,500 people have downloaded the app so far, and within the next three to six months the app will also include a specific company car driver area for the firm's customers that will include information like their P11D and when cars need servicing.
"We are investing heavily in developing the IT because you cannot stand still. You've got to keep moving forwards. Customers want more and more," Stephen tells BusinessCar. "We're trying to grow awareness of Ogilvie and make it relevant to company car drivers. It's been a good success and I think it'll continue to grow and develop."
Another online innovation is the My Fleet Showroom, which uses a traffic light system to indicate what needs to be actioned within the fleet - for example, when services or MOTs are due, bills need to be paid or daily rental needs to be sorted. All come with online reporting too and a P11D breakdown.
In 2014, the company introduced its 'transparency policy' in respect of damage charges, by telling customers what they would pay at the outset of the contract if there was any repair work needed at the end of the term. Other leasing companies have followed suit; however, Ogilvie is one of the few to offer fixed-rate pricing across all grades of vehicle.
According to Stephen, telling customers what to expect makes a big difference. All damage charges are clearly outlined and customers can know exactly what it'll cost for every single vehicle we offer, whether it's a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or a Ford Fiesta.
Used car values
The leasing industry faces a number of challenges over the coming years, and the used car market in particular is an area of uncertainty due to the growth in personal contract hire. Last year there were 8.2 million used cars sold, the highest number ever, and surprisingly prices still held up, although Stephen admits that performance is not likely to be sustainable moving forwards.
"I cannot believe that the used car market will hold when you look at new car registrations over the past two to three years. I don't think it'll collapse, but it is a worry as there's going to be more vehicles out there and fewer people looking at used cars.
"The used car market is going to soften over a period of time, but all the budgets we've done are prepared for that. But the good thing is we have more vehicles coming off, so our average profit may go down but we will have more cars, so it should stay pretty stable. If we hadn't expanded I think we'd be looking at profits in two or three years being less then they are now."
Margin is always going to be a challenge for any leasing company simply because of the level of competition in the market. However, if customer service is consistent, Stephen believes Ogilvie will continue to thrive in 2017 and beyond.
"As long as when you sign a new customer and you promise what you're going to do and consistently deliver it, you'll have them forever more," Stephen concludes. "We want all of our customers to know that if you park your fleet with us, we will look after you."