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Full experience more important than ever when selecting OEM partners

April 24, 2024
When looking for fleet management systems and ownership experiences, fleets, and OEMs, have to keep their specific duty cycles and needs in mind.

With vehicles growing more expensive by the day and featuring more technology than ever, fleets are no longer buying just a truck, but investing in a full experience that can include everything from fuel efficiency devices to telematics sensors and management platforms. That makes improving the ownership experience a pressing challenge for OEMs, and especially for the commercial market—from delivery vans and personal business vehicles to utility trucks and more.

For all of these applications, the trucks in these fleets aren’t just tools for business, they are the fleet’s business. This is why uptime, predictability, personalized services, and real-time information is critical to a fleet’s day-to-day operations. When OEMs invest in those operations, they build more valuable relationships with the fleets they serve. Additionally for the commercial vehicle space, when fleet owners choose the OEM’s fleet management services over competitors, the manufacturers bring in more revenue from those customers, making this relationship even more important.

As such, OEMs and all players in the fleet ecosystem must make a mind shift and think of and design themselves as platforms of access—not just manufacturers of product. This is no longer a simple transactional business, but must be based on value-add experiences and services. 

Focusing on the total ownership experience can ensure that OEMs don’t become commodity manufacturers while tech companies take over the experience aspects (and thus the relationship) of vehicle ownership and usage. Avoiding that outcome is especially critical because commercial vehicles have a longer lifecycle than consumer vehiclesan average of 9.4 years, compared to 8.4 for consumer vehicles, according to NTEA data.

It may not be an untapped market, but this represents opportunities to sell digital management and other services to fleets that can help fleet customers gain efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. Capturing the largest possible share of that market depends in part on vehicle manufacturers’ ability to redefine their B2B commercial vehicle division business model based on customer success and to provide a portfolio of digital and fleet services that drives customer business results.

The experience design challenge

Understanding, mapping, and designing experiences for commercial customers is even more complex than designing consumer ownership experiences. While the in-vehicle experience has traditionally been less of a selling point for commercial vehicles, that’s changing now that drivers are in short supply. And out-of-vehicle experience requirements include business goals such as maximizing uptime, controlling costs, and similar issues that are top concerns for many transportation and logistics businesses.

A well-designed commercial ownership experience should provide vehicles and management services that help customers reduce fuel costs and tailpipe emissions, increase the customer’s ability to attract and retain drivers, and provide a competitive total cost of ownership. But the management services needed are likely to vary from fleet to fleet. For example, some fleet managers may have emissions reductions goals that require electric vehicles with the longest possible range. Others may want to add autonomous vehicles to their fleets. Still others may want vehicle tracking and safety solutions to control operating and insurance costs. 

With so many variables to consider in designing a fleet experience, understanding how customers use their fleet vehicles is a critical part of experience design. This requires detailed research to identify use cases, driver habits, environmental considerations, demand, and more. For example, a delivery van fleet and a utility truck fleet will have very different use cases. 

Read more: What to look for in fleet management systems

The setting where fleets operate matters, too. Utility truck fleets operating in the desert Southwest will have different maintenance requirements from those operating in Gulf coastal zones or in the Upper Midwest with its harsh winters. Management service offerings should be customized for each scenario.

OEMs also need to understand all the personas that engage with fleet vehicles to design a user experience that meets the expectations of all those personas. Interviews with drivers, fleet managers, and maintenance personnel can help identify the key experience issues manufacturers need to address and include.

For example, fleet managers may want the ability to monitor and track individual vehicles’ fuel consumption to identify areas for improvement. But service teams may want predictive maintenance capabilities for each vehicle to reduce unplanned downtime, avoid unnecessary scheduled maintenance costs, and extend vehicle life.

In the end, the experience design should help the fleet owners, managers, and operators run their business more effectively. It should consider a “day in the life” and provide the insights, actions, and services necessary and valuable to make running and conducting the movement of the fleet and fleet vehicles more effective and efficient.

Additionally, commercial vehicle manufacturers need to pay special attention to the role of electrification (and other power source options) as they design their commercial customer ownership experiences.

This includes factoring in how electric fleet vehicle ownership journeys differ from gasoline or diesel vehicle ownership experiences when designing their platform, rather than using the same journey map for both. The mixed fleet capability to support uptime, vehicle, and route optimization based on conditions, weight, traffic, need, and service and maintenance conditions must all be factored in real-time in the decision-making, and thus must be reflected in an OEM management offering.

Choosing the right ecosystem partners

Once OEMs have researched their commercial customers’ needs and mapped the customer persona journeys, they can identify the experience elements they need to improve or add to their platforms. The next step is deciding what can be created in-house, perhaps through the software organizations that many manufacturers are building, and what experience elements require external partners to create them.

The ideal partners will be technologically capable, reliable, and able to collaborate with OEMs, customers, and other players in the manufacturer’s ecosystem to get experience element design just right. And a stable and flexible supply chain should underpin the experience design and production process, to ensure consistency and to avoid delays in vehicle delivery or feature implementation. But this is not a technology play alone. The experience design will ultimately drive the technology choices and options available to fleets that must also be supported by relevant and contextual data and insights, value-add supporting processes and workflows, and people and training that understand the specific needs of this customer.

Creating experiences that drive loyalty

In the end, making these platforms available is all about building experience and loyalty. Fleet owners, managers, and operators should look for platforms and access that enables them to select the specific services and experiences that work for them, and in turn collaborate with OEMS and their partners to make running their business, and their vehicles, easier, not more complex.

On the other side, designing valuable ownership experiences for commercial customers is a heavy lift. It requires deep research and insights for OEMs, strong collaborations among in-house and external talent, a strong focus on creating value for customers, and the ability to manage highly complex customer requirements. OEMs who take on this challenge with the right partners and with ongoing input from their customers should be able to build stronger relationships that increase trust, revenue, and repeat business over the long term.

About the Author

Seth Vogel | Vice President, Sector Lead for Manufacturing, Automotive and Aerospace & Defense

As vice president, sector lead for manufacturing, automotive and aerospace and defense at Capgemini Invent, Seth Vogel brings 25+ years of strategy, operational, technology experience from both industry and consulting. In industry, Seth has experience on both the business and technology arenas for global supply chain technology and operations management. This unique combination of leadership roles from industry, large, medium, and small consulting firms allows him to leverage this experience to build client success and outcomes. 

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