The trouble with running a fleet these days isn’t that there’s not a solution for almost every problem you encounter. It’s that there are usually half a dozen ‘solutions’ for everything.

There are funding solutions, fuel management solutions, software solutions, risk solutions, tyre solutions, windscreen solutions, driver solutions, tracking solutions, security solutions and solution-solving solutions.

Okay, I made that last one up. But you get the picture. If all these ‘solutions’ actually reflected genuine problems, most fleets would need a support system the size of the NHS just to make it through a single working day.

Of course, businesses get by very happily without daily interventions from the fleet equivalent of paramedic teams, Dyno-Rod or the A-Team. In reality, what are being sold as ‘solutions’ are mostly straightforward products or services for meeting essential fleet needs.

Nevertheless, suppliers much prefer the heavily-overused marketing shorthand word ‘solution’ – perhaps because it sounds sexier and because it implies that they can deliver something that will quickly, easily and permanently fix everything that the customer wants done. We all know how that is likely to end up!

The American journalist and broadcaster Eric Sevareid almost certainly had this in mind when he said, only half-jokingly, that the chief cause of problems is solutions.

With four decades of reporting from the frontlines of business, politics and war under his belt, Sevareid knew what he was talking about. He’d watched the iron law of unintended consequences at work all over the world: solving a problem in isolation creates a host of new problems that didn’t exist before the solution came along.

At this point I must hold up my own hand and admit that I’ve been as guilty of calling services solutions as the next man. But I’m planning to tone it down somewhat in future because using appropriate language is an important part of achieving the outcomes that customers want.

After all, few businesses have the kind of major problem with their fleet that require an instant and radical solution. But most organisations do look to outside contractors to fulfil specific fleet tasks.

Rather than trying to cherry pick from a selection of whizz-bang, off-the-shelf ‘solutions’ offered by a plethora of suppliers, the customer’s primary requirement is to find the right partner to help them deliver continual improvements in cost and efficiency over time. If that partner can provide all the products and services that the customer needs, and easily adapt them to fulfil the customer’s specific requirements, so much the better. That really is something that genuinely deserves to be called ‘a solution.’

At the end of the day, there’s still no substitute for high quality service from a supplier who is committed to building an effective, lasting partnership. Or, to segue a little awkwardly from Eric Sevareid to Bananarama, ‘It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it’.

I know that won’t stop some operators looking for some seductively-packaged, impressive-sounding, instant fix that will magically solve all their fleet ‘problems’. All I can say is that, if they believe that such a thing really exists, I’ve got a cantilevered steel and masonry river crossing solution to sell them.

Follow BusinessCar on TWITTER