Audi in Fleet: A Big Win for Recruiting and Retention

What do you see as the sig­nif­i­cant new trends in the indus­try?

We are see­ing a trans­for­ma­tion in the indus­try; a huge change in the way that man­u­fac­tur­ers are mov­ing for­ward. We all have good prod­ucts. You have seen every­one step-up in the past few years with bet­ter prod­uct. It can be elec­tron­ics, engines, trans­mis­sions, any num­ber of things. Advanced tech­nol­o­gy is com­ing into vehi­cles more and more in so many dif­fer­ent ways.  

The next step, at least at Audi, is being inno­va­tors in cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.   How we inter­act with peo­ple, how our prod­uct works for peo­ple, the impres­sion that is left with peo­ple when they think about Audi.   

Audi is mak­ing huge invest­ments in our facil­i­ties and our peo­ple in order to become more client-cen­tric.  This year, Audi built 33 new stand-alone deal­er­ships – all LEED (Lead­er­ship in Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Design) Cer­ti­fied.  We’ve made a huge invest­ment in the edu­ca­tion of our peo­ple – from the ser­vice desk, the sales reps, all the way through the front desk recep­tion­ist.  We want to make sure the sales process is done in a way which is mean­ing­ful to the client, one which respects the client’s time and builds trust.

We see a num­ber of buy­ers who wish to spend time learn­ing and review­ing the tech­nol­o­gy of the vehi­cle itself; they don’t want to spend time with the per­son who is doing financ­ing and set­ting up their license, title and reg­is­tra­tion. Under­stand­ing this, build­ing process­es around this, cre­at­ing an expe­ri­ence which peo­ple enjoy helps us cre­ate loy­al fans and a new appre­ci­a­tion for our brand.

How is Audi work­ing with its fleet clients?

We work with fleet clients direct­ly, enabling them to direct order through their fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies. We work dili­gent­ly to deliv­er vehi­cles at the local deal­er­ship. A lot of those things we do are in line with the indus­try up to this point.

There are oth­er pro­grams for clients that pro­vide more of an Audi expe­ri­ence.  For exam­ple, we pro­vide the deal­er a large fee to process the cour­tesy deliv­ery — $450.00. Deal­ers treat our deliv­er­ies the same as a retail sale, insur­ing a true Audi deliv­ery, an expe­ri­ence that is con­sis­tent.

I believe that you will find most com­pa­nies that opt for Audi, or are at least giv­ing us a seri­ous look, is because they wish to be dif­fer­ent. These are com­pa­nies that put the empha­sis on how they can sup­port their most impor­tant invest­ment — their peo­ple.  Audi can be a big win for them because it dif­fer­en­ti­ates them from their com­peti­tors.  It cer­tain­ly pays div­i­dends for a company’s recruit­ing and reten­tion of peo­ple. You see this phi­los­o­phy in Europe where quite a few of our vehi­cles are used for the same rea­son. Com­pa­nies here in Amer­i­ca who wish to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves are fol­low­ing suit.

You recent­ly attend­ed NAFA’s Inter­na­tion­al Fleet Acad­e­my. What are your thoughts on the event?

NAFA’s Inter­na­tion­al Fleet Acad­e­my was a great forum for peo­ple to learn about what has been hap­pen­ing glob­al­ly with fleet. To be able to under­stand the dif­fer­en­tia­tors that are hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket­place be it in Chi­na, Ger­many, Eng­land, Argenti­na, Brazil, and even here in the Amer­i­c­as, is a tall order. There are so many com­plex­i­ties in being able to man­age a fleet only here in the Unit­ed States. But then add to it cur­ren­cy exchange rates, dif­fer­ences in mea­sure­ments – kilos ver­sus gal­lons and per­for­mance mea­sures, CO2 emis­sion require­ments that are man­dat­ed cou­pled with tax­a­tion man­dates by dif­fer­ent countries….it is end­less.

NAFA’s IFA gives a glob­al fleet man­ag­er the breadth of the com­plex­i­ties – where to start, what should be mea­sured, what’s most impor­tant.    

What about your own per­son­al expe­ri­ence at IFA? What stood out for you?

Man­ag­ing a fleet glob­al­ly is cer­tain­ly not some­thing that can be tak­en light­ly. It is going to take quite a bit of time and invest­ment, quite a bit of effec­tive work­ing knowl­edge. One of the things I found real­ly impor­tant for the per­son tasked with man­ag­ing a glob­al fleet is to build rela­tion­ships. Not to do it over Skype or through email; they need to make it per­son­al and be in touch with peo­ple. They need to be able to sit with their col­leagues from oth­er coun­tries, press the flesh and under­stand what the goals are for that par­tic­u­lar region.

It’s clear to me that it is a huge plus to be able to have that kind of rela­tion­ship and real­ly under­stand why they are doing things the way they are doing them. Get­ting input and the bless­ing of the local fleet man­agers can only help expe­dite the inte­gra­tion of a cor­po­rate glob­al fleet pro­gram.

You have been a mem­ber of NAFA for many years; what val­ue has NAFA brought to you?

NAFA is unri­valed in edu­ca­tion and bring­ing peo­ple a full under­stand­ing what is hap­pen­ing inside the indus­try. Man­u­fac­tur­ers, fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies, fleet man­agers and our clients, dri­vers — all ben­e­fit from NAFA’s pro­grams.  Hav­ing the abil­i­ty to bring all these forces togeth­er to be able to have that kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­ver­sa­tion under one roof is amaz­ing.

BIO

Michael is respon­si­ble for devel­op­ing new com­mer­cial fleet busi­ness and cre­at­ing enthused Audi Brand Cham­pi­ons in the US mar­kets.  Dur­ing the past six years, he has worked close­ly with numer­ous fleet man­agers, cor­po­rate fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies, Audi deal­er­ships, and oth­er busi­ness part­ners to pro­vide pro­gres­sive mobil­i­ty solu­tions. 

Michael’s tenure in the fleet indus­try cov­ers more than 24 years and includes employ­ment with US Fleet Leas­ing, Wheels Inc., and Nation­al Car Rental.  More­over, as a for­mer ASE cer­ti­fied mechan­ic, Michael’s diverse back­ground pro­vides him with a unique view­point of the auto­mo­tive indus­try,  both past and present.

Extern.Michael.Stafford@audi.com

 

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