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Fleet Profile: Herd Group

Date: 16 May 2023   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

Rachel Boagey learns how Herd Group's new head of fleet plans to put his extensive fleet management background to good use.

Meet David Fisher, Herd Group's new head of fleet, who has settled comfortably into his new office located in Surrey. 

"There's a lot I want to do here. We have big ambitions," Fisher tells us. 

Despite being in his new role for just six weeks, Fisher is already making waves in the company and is poised to bring in his extensive twenty-year fleet industry experience including roles at Enerveo, Virgin Media, Travis Perkins, and Rexel. 

For Fisher, this role at the fleet management services provider represents a shift to the other side of the fence, as he previously came from a background in fleet management.

Fisher joins an experienced operations team led by Mike Cooke, group fleet director. The team handles accident damage repairs and operations for all of Herd Group's customers, which have grown significantly over the past seven years currently with more than 2,500 vehicles on hire. 

Fisher is thrilled to be part of a passionate team. "It's nice to be around people who know something about fleet. Usually, I'm the fleet person and other people in the company want to drive down costs constantly and make everything a battle. It's nice to be in a company that understands how things work and tries to do the right thing by its customers and work together." 

With a focus on innovation and customer satisfaction, Herd Group offers a wide range of solutions to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes. The company's services include vehicle financing, maintenance and repair, fuel management, and telematics. 

The business is dedicated to providing cost-effective solutions that help businesses optimise their fleet operations and improve their bottom line, and Fisher says although the Group has been successful, there is always room for improvement. "There are processes I want to update and make things a bit easier for us and a bit quicker and more cost-effective for our customers," he tells us.

The Group's Herd Connect fleet management solution consists of complete fleet management outsourcing from order, to asset management and driver management, through to de-fleet, refurbishment and disposal. "The role of Herd Connect is to take care of the fleets of our customers so they can focus on growth," explains Fisher. "We manage their maintenance and make sure their cars and vans are safe and compliant, with downtime kept to a minimum" he says. 

Exponential growth 

Most B2B customers use Herd Group for long-term rental but they also specialise in daily rental from its Dorking, flagship site  and 16 franchises which are dotted around the UK. The company expects exponential growth in the next few years with its success in fleet management and a move to leasing next year. 

Fisher believes the Group's growth over the past three years, even through Covid-19, is due to its commitment to its customers. Fisher goes on to say, "We had a really good period of growth during the pandemic which
is unusual for a hire business and we picked up where lots of them failed due to our honesty and transparency, which is what attracted me to come and work for the business. One of my bugbears as a fleet manager was recharges at the end of life and the lack of transparency surrounding that. Transparency and giving customers information is something I've always wanted when I've been the other side of the fence and it's something they do well here."

On the contrary, Fisher describes Herd as a "nice, transparent business." He says, "If something comes back damaged, we will try and get it all repaired cheaply and easily for our customers. It's a nice refreshing change." 

The Group has started providing its fleet customers with monthly information reporting - something Fisher wants to expand as he settles into the role. "We currently send customers information on recharges for the month, but I'd like to begin to send out a detailed report to every customer every month, including details such as cost for the month, recharges, mechanical information, damages, for example, to help them manage their fleets a bit better," Fisher explains. 

He explains that many of the fleets Herd helps manage are managed by HR, who are often  dipping in and out of the fleet management and don't have the time to dedicate to running a fleet. "This is where we step in to help them out. If we can provide monthly reports to help them have better insights on their fleet, then we should," he says. 

Bolstering the operations team through partnerships with Epyx and AllStar ServicePoint, allows Herd Group to provide fleet maintenance support, from full maintenance management to helping with maintenance work, Herd Group works with every customer to tailor a bespoke service-level agreement. Fisher says, "Not one of our customers operates in the same way so our service is not a one-size-fits-all thing - we'll move and change our business to fit what the customer needs." 

Caring for customers 

Herd has built its business on the core principles of its Customer CARE ethos. "That's what everyone here lives by, how the company operates, and what we all think about in our day-to-day jobs," says Fisher, who believes he got the job by pitching ideas on how to improve customer service. 

On Fisher's team is a customer care manager and care and relationship manager, who deal with customers and take responsibility for making sure customers are satisfied. The fleet and compliance manager sits next to Fisher in the office and makes sure all MOTs and maintenance is up to date and that the Group is communicating with customers when this needs to be done. 

Fisher explains: "We make sure everyone is three months in advance otherwise we'd end up with vehicles that are not meant to be on the road. Our CARE ethos is making sure customers are safe on the road and the same goes for other road users, which often gets forgotten. Making sure everyone is happy with the service is a vital part of our company and it's felt by the staff too - six weeks into the job and I'm still smiling, he says." 

Powering up for electrification

Many of the drivers on the Herd fleet are already in electric and hybrid cars and vans, with an order of Renault Arkanas arriving on the fleet in the coming weeks. Fisher would like to see the drivers who aren't in electric or hybrid vehicles move into them soon too, and plans to set them up with home chargers in addition to the chargers that already exist at the office to make the transition easier. He is also actively looking for new partnerships with manufacturers of electric vehicles to continue to improve his fleet's environmental impact, especially the vehicles the fleet offers for hire to give customers options. 

But the move to electric is not an overnight change, explains Fisher. "We're dipping our toes in with electric vehicles," he tells us. "I've been on fleets previously where we've made a big move to EVs and fitted charging points at homes but still find the country isn't ready yet. If drivers get caught out on the road somewhere, they could be waiting for hours to charge up."

Fisher explains that over the next two to three years, the fleet's move to electric vehicles will be much more prevalent as they want to provide the option to their customers if that's what they're looking for. He says, "ULEVs and clean air zones are going to ramp up the charging capabilities out on the road, even in less-connected areas and those fleets based outside of London like ourselves." "We have some customers in rural parts of Wales, for example, and in those areas it's hard to even find a petrol station, let alone a charging point."

Unlike some fleet professionals, Fisher doesn't rule out the potential of hydrogen. "Many of our customers will need to charge their vehicles quickly due to the nature of their jobs but there are no rapid chargers where they work, so until then, I predict their vehicles will need to continue to be diesel, hybrid or I even see hydrogen working for them."

Fisher explains that the potential for hydrogen is something he wants to explore in this role. "Hydrogen vehicles have previously been too expensive, but a lot more companies are trialling them and bringing them to market. The benefits are they're quicker to refuel and the fuel can be pumped through the existing gas lines," he says.

Plans for expansion

In his new role, Fisher helps to support the Group's expansion of franchises across the UK, while supporting his team and ensuring they have the support they need. "I'm looking for partnerships with businesses that can help us build an all-round solution for our customers, from electric cars to charge points and even a salary sacrifice scheme," he says. "There are many places I want to push us forwards and connect the maintenance management and fleet systems side of things to help make life easier for people and I'm in a great team to make that possible." 

He also envisions creating new processes and training to offer the Group's staff a broad range of education to achieve the highest professional competence in their operations. "I've put many people through the Association of Fleet Professionals training courses in previous roles, so I'm keen on doing that here to help staff improve their knowledge, know what's going on in the industry, and make good connections," says Fisher. "We're so good at what we do and have so many customers who trust us, so we're keen to raise our profile and become known even more in the industry."