by Steve Clarke, General Manager of The Fuelcard People.
In theory, there has never been such a time of opportunity for anyone helping transport companies to control and reduce costs. In reality, the fuel card world seems content to trundle on in the same old way.
Some suppliers still insist that the only benefit a fuel card needs is acceptability. Being widely accepted, they say, should be enough. Perhaps it is, if users really do not want discount pricing across vast nationwide networks. Having to pay pump prices, though, seems a high cost for a benefit of dubious worth.
Most transport companies have more useful fuel cards. Some have used them for so long that they now regard them merely as discount cards. This can be true: sometimes, benefits begin and end with cheaper fuel. That may be all that the user wants — if they do not realise the range of other benefits that could be helping their businesses.
We should not blame users for not knowing what they are missing. After all, no supplier highlights benefits, available from competitors, which they do not offer themselves. It means, though, that transport companies may not hear about customised management reports, 24/7 Internet access to account information, advanced security features and much more.
While fuel card suppliers continue working to a 1990s business model, and users accept “Same old…” as being inevitable, improvements are unlikely. Habits, easily formed, are difficult to break. Outside work, we know that ringing the bank means having to queue before talking to an anonymous call centre operative who has never heard of us. Traditionally, it has been the same with fuel card suppliers and users have grown used to poor service.
Gradually, this is changing — with evolution driven by customers. The manager is tired of having to explain who they are, and what their company does, before getting to their reason for ringing. When they have a query, they want to call a person rather than a system. What is more, they want to speak to the same individual every time. Slowly but surely, users are voting with their feet; if their existing supplier will not give them a dedicated account manager, they look for one who will.
Users are also beginning to realise that fuel cards are not all the same and are now asking, how many different fuel cards do you offer? When they hear that a supplier offers just one, rather than a handful from different major brands, they become wary. Clearly, this supplier will try to bluff that a single fuel card can be equally suitable for a long-distance haulier and for a cab driver. Surprisingly, some suppliers do insist exactly that. Others seem to think it reasonable to cater only for diesel users. You have a mixed fleet? Tough.
The fuel card industry needs to grow up. Right now, there are dozens of suppliers, but you can be sure that natural selection is going to thin them out. As transport companies increasingly expect fuel cards to offer service, savings and security benefits, those suppliers unwilling to make the necessary investment will not survive — and nor should they.
Steve Clarke is the General Manager of The Fuelcard People. To find out more about The Fuelcard People, please visit our wesbite, https://www.thefuelcardpeople.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0844 870 9856.