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INSIDER: Leasing firms should try a touch of royal discretion

Date: 14 May 2008

The Insider is a fleet manager with years of invaluable experience

When 'benchmarking' rivals for prospective customers, perhaps it's time that some leasing companies were a little less accommodating.

I'm concerned about increasingly loose tongues broadcasting fleet policies to our competitors.

I'm talking about leasing companies, who I believe aren't being as discreet as they should be. I'm sure they'll throw their hands up in mock horror at these accusations, but in truth they know exactly how far they'll bend over to help a new client 'benchmark' their competitors when advising on fleet policy.

I don't blame the company looking for fleet advice. Who wouldn't want to know what their competitors were doing when it came to the size of cash allowances, the value of cars permitted or the details of the choice restrictions? But it's a bit rich for the leasing company to capitalise on its knowledge of existing clients in order to secure new customers. I doubt Prince Charles's tailor softens up prospective customers by informing them that HRH is partial to a bit of Thai silk, likes a button fly and dresses to the left.

I know exactly what the leasing companies would say if I accused them of doing this: 'We only use broad benchmarks and we don't reveal details of individual cases'. Said a spokesman. But anyone who works in business knows the difference between the company line and meeting-room reality.

The salesman is going to perch on the desk and spout something along the lines of 'I shouldn't really be telling you this, but Corpco have raised their car allowance for top-tier employees to £xxx a month'. I know because I've recently heard words very similar to that.

Of course I can't pretend I immediately stuck my fingers in my ears and made loud la-la-la noises on hearing this particular bit of insider information, but I did feel a twinge of distaste at this guy's casual revelation of a rival's business practice. But what can be done?

You want to hear from an experienced leasing company about what the rest of the world's up to, but you don't particularly want your business shared with the rest of the world. I could always feed some disinformation about the Astons we've bought for on-target salesmen, but I fear my poker 'tells' would rather give the game away.



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