Being a fleet leader is more about serving than being served. It embodies the concept of being a servant leader, a term which originated in 1970 with the publication of Robert Greenleaf’s classic essay, The Servant as Leader. It was in this essay that he coined the terms “servant-leader” and “servant leadership.” In my opinion, servant leadership is the bedrock of successful fleet management.
Internal users are too often treated by some fleet managers as a captive audience that can be dictated to and shown little respect; however, it is important to remember the reason your fleet department exists is to support user departments. You are the business partner of these departments that rely upon you to provide superb customer service to help them fulfill their daily tasks. From a corporate perspective, there is a dollar value associated with customer service – every hour of downtime costs your organization real dollars in lost productivity.
Establishing a customer-service mindset within a fleet organization creates customers satisfied with your services – who view you as a true business partner. Nothing creates more credibility for your team than for senior management to hear user departments compliment you on the quality of customer service they receive. But to earn the praise, you must walk the walk and talk the talk.
Promising good customer service is not the same as delivering it. To be successful in today’s fleet environment, it is critical to create a shop culture of providing high-quality service that provides an unwavering focus on the customer. Not only does this entail understanding customer needs, wants, and expectations, it involves having an almost obsessive desire to fulfill these needs.
To develop a service mindset, you need to view work from the customers’ perspectives. Define your functions with the customer in mind. As fleet manager, you have to understand service technicians aren’t the first line of defense in raising the customer service bar – you are! The fleet manager is responsible for creating a culture that values internal customers, even difficult ones. As a leader, your success is based on growing others in your operation. It’s all about making the people who work for you customer-oriented, more resourceful, and dependable.
However, the most important aspect to superb customer service is consistency. By providing consistent customer service, it will result in customers complaining less and complimenting you more. The same applies to your staff. If you’re consistently listening to their needs, employees will come to you with ideas and solutions to help improve job satisfaction and customer service.
To provide superb customer service, it is important that a fleet manager is a good listener. You must also listen to your users and staff. A good listener is balanced, open to opposing perspectives, has an attitude that they can learn from others, and is open to new ideas. Listening is often an underutilized part of fleet communication. Listening intently and devoting your time to people’s concerns or opinions goes a long way in building a great team and cultivating outside support for the fleet department from users.
The most important (and perhaps most difficult) task is getting your team, as a whole, to develop a customer service mindset. You need to develop ways to get your team excited about customer service. Motivate them to get passionate about satisfying others. Help them understand the internal customer is their No. 1 priority. You need to constantly recommunicate this message so it becomes part of fleet’s everyday operating procedures. But, a customer-service mindset is created by actions, not words. Emails and presentations touting “best-in-class service” don’t mean a thing unless the fleet organization lives, breathes, and delivers it.
To build a customer service mindset, you must employ both formal and informal metrics to measure progress. Solicit regular feedback from user departments using customer surveys, but also use informal methods as simple as conversations and direct observations. These informal methods will alert you to service deficiencies. By not using informal metrics, you run the risk of detaching yourself from discovering unreported customer-related issues.
The job of a great fleet manager, or servant leader, is to inspire a team toward a shared vision of providing best-in-class customer service. You must be committed to leadership by example and consistently demonstrate a passion for customer service.
In the final analysis, you are the role model.
Let me know what you think.