“When you go through a recession and the budget cutting thats involved, you come out the other side a nimbler business with a state of mind to innovate to do things differently,” Chris Chandler, principal consultant at Lex Autolease, explained.
Innovation doesnt have to mean fundamental change, but just making small alterations to how certain parts of the business operates. Leasing company vehicles, which SMEs have traditionally owned as fixed-assets, is a small innovation that can make a positive difference to bottom lines and make a firm more attractive in the job market.
He continued: By changing their approach from buying to leasing, whether that be for one or 50 vehicles, companies can find a cheaper way of meeting their individual requirements. All businesses want something different, and through greater choice, customers can access better vehicles than they can afford to purchase out right. This could be to attain a certain image, such as premium saloons for a mobile sales force, to meet environmental and duty of care policies or to improve remuneration packages to be more attractive in the job market.
Lex Autolease, which recently sponsored the Real Business Growing Business Awards Innovator of the Year award, prides itself on being able to deliver small innovations for SMEs through the wide variety of products in its portfolio.
For Chandler, providing a range of consultancy and tailored solutions to help small businesses find the right vehicles and appropriate management packages is a crucial part of his role. For him, Lex Autolease is as much a service provider as it is a pure lease supplier.
“With increased market confidence, were now seeing more businesses look to make changes in how they operate their company vehicles to address various challenges, whether thats to reduce costs, address legislation on emissions and driver safety, accident services or maintenance.
One area that has seen particular growth is in how remuneration packages can be enhanced to reward employees. Those who arent able to access a company car as a perk of their role are increasingly being offered the chance to do so though salary sacrifice schemes instead. Effectively the company is providing what looks and feels like a company car to an employee, but they are taking a salary reduction in return,” he added. Its tax efficient and enables employers to be more attractive in the job market.
By operating a close, collaborative approach with its customers, Lex Autolease has been able to develop a deep understanding of their individual requirements, and have introduced three core innovations over the last 12 months.
Firstly, the company has integrated fuel management reporting into its main vehicle management system which allows customers to understand and manage how much fuel they are using, whether that be for one journey or a six month period. Chandler commented that the long-term increase in motoring costs has many small companies concerned about how to manage it, and by monitoring and identifying driver habits, they can save themselves money.
To address the specific transport challenges of tradespeople, the leasing company have launched an innovative range of affordable, readily available light commercial vehicles called Driveaways, which can be tailored for a specific trade.
“What weve noticed is that a lot of customers have been looking for light commercial vehicles to carry out specific roles. Whether that is a plumber or electrician, tradespeople want a vehicle with the ability to store tools in the most appropriate way to get the job done,” he explained.
“With this insight, weve gone to our customers and asked what a typical specification for their trade looks like, so we can provide fully-fitted vehicles from the manufacturer ready for customers to drive away quickly. Weve also worked with trade bodies to ensure the products were offering are the best possible fit for each industry. The benefit of this service is minimised conversion and lead time, with many of the vehicles available inside two weeks.
A further innovative development from the company is especially relevant at this time of year, when the adverse weather and extra deliveries take their toll on all business vehicles. Called Business Critical, the initiative is aimed at customers who rely heavily on their company vehicle for their day-to-day operations, whether you’re a plumber or delivery driver. Minimising down time for these customers is essential for them to get the job done: We make sure that, if those customers break down, they are dealt with quickly, even if thats out of hours,” Chandler added.
The Business Critical service also means that special vehicles, heavily converted for the likes of tradespeople, have reliable back up options.
For us, it’s all about listening to customers and delivering what they want and need. Were the biggest leasing company in the market in terms of size, but also offer a range of services and by driving innovation across our product range we can continue to add value for our customers,” he said.
This helps us retain existing clients with good service levels and win new business.