Under the Microscope: We talk to Matt Dyer, MD of Leaseplan
26 June 2017
Author: Debbie Wood
It's the second-largest leasing company here in the UK, responsible for over 185,000 vehicles, and for Leaseplan's UK managing director, Matt Dyer, 2017 is all about putting the customer first.
One of the key initiatives for Leaseplan over the past year has been the launch of the firm's Engage Centre strategy, which is now fully operational here in the UK and plans to completely change the way the company interacts with its customers and put the focus on digital.
Dyer believes the driver is becoming a key influencer in the decision-making process when it comes to what company car they drive and determining the level of support they need, and with the steep rise in digital engagements, action was needed to change the way in which the company engaged with its drivers and fleet managers.
New innovations like upgrading the company's mobile app, a new web portal for fleets, and better web technology to enhance the user experience alongside the firm's more established online quoting and ordering tools have all been a key focus for the firm as part of this strategy, alongside recognising that digital enquiries need to be seen as just as important as phone call and face-to-face interactions.
Introducing a strategy like this is not without its problems, though, Dyer explains, as it also includes changing mentalities. "The Engage Centre strategy is now into full flow and it's an important step for us, but it's transformational and any step like this comes with challenges along the way," Dyer tells BusinessCar. "It's a very healthy step. We've got to be shoulder to shoulder with our customers on a weekly if not daily basis and we don't just see it as an arm's-length use of our service, and that was a very important mindset change."
Leaseplan has enjoyed significant growth over the past year, with a global 7% rise in profits to £388m in 2016 which helped to increase its market position amongst other leasing companies. SME has been an important area of growth for the firm and, according to Dyer, its newer products like Leaseplan Flexible that have worked especially well for this market because some companies do not want to sign up for four or five years, but will be much happier signing up for six to 12 months, especially if they are contracting work or need additional support for seasonal spikes in their operations.
"It's very clear that when you're talking vehicles and small businesses, you're talking about the lifeblood of these businesses," Dyer says. "We've been there a long time and would like to think we are a leading player in this segment."
Dyer admits that the biggest challenge facing Leaseplan is adapting to new technology. Just two to three years ago, the majority of interactions and sales enquiries made into the business came through on the telephone, and as we've already mentioned, today this has completely flipped on its head and it's either email or a digital interaction of some sort that take the lion's share of leads.
"The outside world is moving very quickly. We are all very savvy consumers these days and it doesn't matter if you're taking a company car or a personal lease contract because what you expect is very much a consumer-style service. You expect the apps, the portals, the online quotation tools to be at a high level and you want to interact in a way that is consistent with the expectations of the rest of the world."
According to Dyer, what Leaseplan has done well over the past six to nine months is work to map out what will be coming in the next couple of years for the industry and make sure the firm is well-positioned with a clear path on what role it can play. Dyer believes that this proactive rather than reactive approach is what will set the company apart and ensures it future-proofs itself.
Another key challenge for the leasing industry is dealing with connected data and Dyer believes there's still a great deal of work to be done to provide clarity on who can access that data, but also how it can improve the experience of the customer. "We've got some work to do as an industry because the whole concept of connected vehicle data has not really matured yet in a way which recognises that all the interested parties can benefit," Dyer explains. "It takes us into a very exciting phase where you have far more rapid and dynamic feedback between the driver, the owner and manager and the manufacturer, and suddenly you'll see demand patterns move very quickly, which is very exciting."
The leasing industry is going through a period of change, with many companies consolidating and merging with one another at a time when expectations from the customer are becoming more sophisticated than ever. Dyer believes there could be more consolidation to come and a number of challenges in tax legislation may become a key issue for the near future.
"I think we are in a very interesting phase in our sector. If you simply look at the number of players in the marketplace and what it takes to be successful, the bar is rising and you're seeing that based on both the healthy level of competition that is in the market and also the expectations of the modern world, so you've got to keep upping your game," Dyer explains.
"We also need to be aware that there's been a real push to increase tax revenue from our sector and I don't doubt that it will come again, so we need to do what we can to protect the needs of our customers there because this is becoming an increasing cost burden for them and we need to make sure that we manage it in the right way."
Changing buying habits
The growth of personal contract hire (PCH) over the past few years has been significant, as buyers become more accustomed to this idea of 'renting' rather than owning a vehicle. For Leaseplan, the firm has been at the forefront of the PCH opportunity for quite some time now. Initially it could have been seen as a bit of a gamble, but it is one that has certainly paid off for the firm now.
"We saw it as backing our strengths. Like our public sector customers, PCH customers want us to own the risk and recognise that we take the responsibility of the residual value," Dyer explains. "People are increasingly used to this way of working, this concept of using rather than owning, and it's important for us as big players in the industry to back it in the right way, which is why increasingly recognising the driver and the customer as one and the same is becoming so important."
Turning to the future, like all of its competitors, Leaseplan is looking to grow and Dyer is confident that if the company continues to focus on the customer and stays true to its key strengths, its recent profit success will continue.
"The important thing for us is that we keep growing in a healthy way and keep looking for opportunities to grow. That's a challenge in itself as the market that we operate in is very competitive."
"We've got a real appetite to grow in the right way and we've done a lot of work under new ownership to really create the next lifecycle of Leaseplan and where are our priorities are going to be. We believe there are opportunities in which we can continue to focus in that have been successful for us in the past, and see them evolve further over the coming years."