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Telematics expert back on track

Date: 15 June 2010

Tracker MD Stephen Doran speaks to Paul Barker about how the telematics specialist is going about returning to the growth trail following a difficult time

Vehicle telematics specialist Tracker is only now emerging from what managing director Stephen Doran admits has been a difficult period for the firm.

A tough phase of integration has followed RBS's acquisition of Tracker in 2005, with Doran, who joined the company just before Christmas, freely confessing "some of the customer service standards slipped as a result". However, he is now building for a resurgence of the business. "We're looking to finesse the market rather than stem the flow of angry customers. We've got to finish off the process and build the foundations of what we want to do," Doran told BusinessCar.

After being "internally focused for the last three years", the company is once again talking to customers about what they want from a system, looking to the market for help as to where it should prioritise its investment in new services. "We've been out into the market asking what keeps fleet managers up at night, and we've not done that for a while," says Doran.

Tracker's historic problems lay in its billing system for fleet customers - there was no simple online system for completing tasks such as moving devices from one vehicle to another. "With fleets, units go in and out of vehicles at an alarming rate," he says, which has been the biggest cause of billing queries. "We have work-arounds but there's no simple online system," says Doran. "We're late to a fairly simple enhancement to the service to our customers and it's created a legacy of billing issues." A new website under development at the moment is due to address the issue by making changes more straightforward. "It gives us the confidence to say to customers that we've had a blip or two in service but we're a rock-solid organisation."

Doran says he doesn't feel Tracker has lost many customers as a result, but the bigger impact has been on the firm's attempt to grow. "We've lost more by not gaining customers. As a business we felt we had a systems challenge to deal with so we've not gone hunting for new business in an aggressive way," he says. The target is small-to-medium enterprises, moving upwards from Tracker's traditional customer base of small businesses.

Over the next 12 months, Doran feels the launch of a new operating platform will "help us enormously", along with the introduction of the new fleet website. He's also looking to deliver at least half of the top 10 new elements fleet managers are asking for. "If we can deliver those then I would be really chuffed, and as a result we would win new business."

Customers are asking for a mixture of facilities available on rival systems and new developments not offered anywhere, according to Doran:

"There is no one provider that gives everyone everything. Most things are available somewhere and some of the things we already do, but we've got a long list of development opportunities. You can't go to a single developer and get everything.

"I don't think we'll give everything to everybody, but we'll nail the most important 50% and deliver those because we're aiming to have a more collaborative way of working and we're seeking collaborative partners to do the rest," he continued.

Tracker wants to build partnerships with specialties in neighbouring areas to the firm's fleet management and stolen vehicle tracking arms, rather than trying to build everything itself, and is involved in early discussions with potential partners. Doran is building on his experience working for Apple, where the company developed the operating system, but people all over the world are able to develop compatible applications. "We won't turn into the iPhone overnight, but it's a similar model."

Set for new 'hybrid' product launch

Tracker is gearing up for a new product launch over the summer that will fill the gap between the firm's fleet management and vehicle tracking propositions. "The way we went about fleet telematics was starting at the smaller businesses with the device and a number of core reporting services," he says. "We need to progress past that and build with small- and medium-sized enterprises."

Detail is scarce on the "hybrid" system currently being trialled, with the company keen to ensure it is completely robust ahead of launch, citing the recent recovery of a stolen Ford Sierra Cosworth 14 years after the tracking device was fitted as an example of the reliability reputation Doran is seeking to protect.