IT’S been over two and half months since we entered lockdown, the coronavirus forcing brokerages to shut up shop, furlough staff, and keep a skeleton crew working via your digital conferencing system of choice.
The shock, the frustration, the inability to deliver vehicles before April taxation changes all added to the sense of bewilderment.
But brokers are a resilient bunch. And have used the time wisely – to carry on trading first and foremost, but to undertake training and to consider their business processes and aims.
Not only the brokers, but the funders and industry suppliers too.
What have they considered the most important lessons learned from lockdown? We asked them to find out and share their lockdown insights.
Lockdown insights from the leasing broker industry
Richard Boreham, director V4B, said:
“In taking a long hard look at the business I have been able to recognise some costs savings and some service efficiency improvements – it has also shown me some vulnerabilities and threats we all have regarding funders and clients. It’s been very educational.”
Matt Woodward, general sales manager at Carparison, said:
“I think it’s fast forwarded consumers to accepting that online models are a viable way of vehicle acquisition. Of course, this is nothing new to us in our industry, but I think it’s accelerated the volume of customers willing now to accept that a vehicle can be acquired in a manner that similar to buying from Amazon. I think the challenges will lie in identifying and executing successful technologies (for both funders and brokers) that help the industry move as much as it can towards a full e-commerce model.
“In the short time between lockdown occurring and the present day, I have been surprised how buoyant business has been. The caution I exercise and the question I ask is whether there’s a temporary pent up demand from those customers who would have leased in April and May, but literally couldn’t. In the long term, I think this whole experience will actually benefit our world, even if it means we have to adapt and change at a faster rate.”
Chris Swallow, national sales manager – indirect sales, Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, gave this funder view:
“The biggest change we have seen is everyone embracing remote technology, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as a form of communicating to keep in touch with customers and suppliers. At Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions we have used this extensively over the last couple of months and I have never seen so many of our brokers face to face through this media and it has been very insightful for me to talk to our brokers and get a real understanding of what is happening in the industry and their businesses.
“Usually I wouldn’t be able to get out and see everyone so this has been a very positive outcome for me and the team and going forward we will continue to embrace this new way of working.
Strategic partnerships director, Simon West-Oliver, provided this view from broker industry supplier ODO:
“That we are resilient to survive dispersed working and that we have the agility to provide quality customer service under very adverse conditions.”
Ryan Prentice, managing director of Vanleasing.com, said:
“As with most brokers, we found the immediate period after lockdown to be extremely challenging as we grappled with a motor industry in full shutdown. However, as things begin to return to normal we find ourselves very well placed to make the most of new opportunities.
“We’ve been investing heavily in cloud-based technology in recent years and have added further collaboration tools to our armoury to make remote working the best it possibly can be.
“We’ve found that our team loves the added flexibility of home working and our productivity has improved. It’s shown us the possibilities of increasing the geographical reach of Vanleasing.com by employing a wider group of people on a fully-remote basis. Onwards and upwards.”
Lee Jones, managing director, Kew Vehicle Leasing, had this to offer about lockdown insights:
“That as much as we are ahead of the curve of dealers when it comes to digital, being close to your customers and maintaining a personal relationship is massively important.”
Sebastiano Fedrigo, managing director of broker funder Leasys, said:
“The lockdown period has certainly changed some of the ways we conduct our contract hire business activities. In particular the following key factors have been crucial in addressing the new needs expressed by the automotive industry:
“Maintaining closer contact with our customers, retailers, brokers and suppliers during these unusual times. Keeping our communication channels open with our teams working remotely from their safe homes to answer queries.
“Effectively utilising the latest technology such as Google Meets to reduce business miles for face to face meetings and online training. This new way of conducting business has been successfully applied not only internally, but also in managing the relationship with our customers all around the UK.
“Building a closer business relationship with our customer base, ensuring we listen and address their concerns whilst also embracing positive feedback received.
“Understanding how we can adapt and further enhance our product offering in an ever changing market place, the best example is the launch of our latest product: Leasys Miles the truly revolutionary pay as you go rental solution.
“Working closer with our broker partners through their furlough period by continuing to support their business requirements whilst assisting with administration issues and adapting our processes in order to support the customer journey. For example, we introduced some new measures in order to smoothen document signing and submitting.”
Marc Murphy, head of marketing, Intelligent Car Leasing, said:
“The increasing importance of a robust digital sales process, and to remain as agile as possible – we can protect jobs by integrating flexibility and agility into our business operations.”
Scott Norville, managing director, Silverstone Fleet Management, commented:
“We have learnt that working from home does not work.
“In some industries I am sure working from home is fine, saves travel time for meetings and is slightly more convenient in some cases. Meetings can be held via zoom or any virtual platform, but what’s missing is the personal touch.
“The team at Silverstone worked from home for three weeks before furlough was introduced. Productivity from distractions with young families was at an all-time low; enthusiasm dropped; zoom meetings on a daily basis did not work when internet connectivity was poor. Being part of a team working closely with each other was missed.
“I took the decision to bring members back into the office, making sure the office was covid secure, and one by one members came back into the office. What we had all clearly missed was the team spirit and camaraderie. Now three weeks on with 80% of the team back, productivity is at an all-time high, the team are fired up and being back together is a breath of fresh air.”
Andy Houston, managing director, The Vehicle Leasing Expert, had this view:
“Lockdown has given us a chance to look at all our processes and become more streamlined. We have built better relationships with other brokers and dealers due to a real feeling of ‘we are in this together’. The offers of help and support from others has been great. We are certainly coming out of this in a better place than before lockdown.”
Ralph Morton is the leading journalist in the leasing broker sector and editor of Broker News, the website which provides information and news for BVRLA-registered leasing brokers. He also writes extensively on the fleet and leasing market in both the UK and Europe.