Report confirms importance of field-based staff
24 September 2012
Businesses are investing further in customer service teams to meet the growing expectations of customers on the doorstep, according to a new industry report .
The report reveals that 57% of operations directors and managers say their service teams have grown since 2007, while nearly two thirds believe their service division will grow in the next five years. The industry study was carried out with 100 managers and directors of businesses in the UK with field service departments across a variety of industries including communications (phone, cable and satellite), utilities, trade (HVAC, plumbing and electrical) and waste management.
The strategic importance of field service operations is increasingly recognised at the board of director level with 90% of companies in the survey saying their organisation was fully committed to improving field operations. Just under half (49%) said their board is placing more strategic importance on field service excellence than it did a year ago. The report also found that field-based employees were perceived as the face of the company by 90% of respondents, demonstrating the increasingly key role these teams are now playing in the overall business and in potentially impacting customer service and retention.
Businesses are also going to greater lengths to ensure service levels are maintained, with 82% now running customer feedback programmes to monitor satisfaction, and over half now using social media to capture feedback. More than three quarters of managers anticipate a larger role for social media in the future. It's clear that today's field-based organisations consider a customer-centric focus to be a priority, with customer satisfaction given as the top priority (68%) for meeting field service objectives, followed by customer retention and improving profitability.
There is a growing acknowledgement of the increasing expectations of customers and the links between customer service, retention and profitability. Those businesses recognising their workforce as not only the company face but also a customer retention tool can reap the rewards as service continues to be a differentiator and something consumers could use to make an informed decision about who to buy services from.
New Audi A3 Sportback set for Paris debut
24 September 2012
The latest Audi A3 appears in a new capacity at next week’s Paris Motor Show (September 29 to October 14) as the third generation five-door Sportback version makes its world public debut.
Carrying a premium of £620 over its three-door equivalent, the first phase of A3 Sportback models is now open for ordering priced from £19,825 OTR. Equipment levels mirror the three-door A3 across the three SE, Sport and S line specification levels, but the more family-oriented Sportback also adds rear electric windows and rear door child locks.
Sport models upgrade to larger alloy wheels and incorporate the Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system which enables the driver to choose from five modes dictating the car’s driving characteristics – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual. Stand-out features of the top S line specification include 18-inch alloy wheels, S line body styling, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, an S line sports steering wheel and part-leather-upholstered sports seats embossed with the S line logo.
Audi will initially offer the new A3 Sportback with a choice of one TDI and two TFSI engines. Two diesel engines and one petrol unit will follow later. They combine multiple efficiency technologies – direct injection, turbocharging, innovative thermal management and the start-stop system. Fuel consumption has been reduced on average by around 10 per cent compared with the previous model.
The majority of engines in the new Audi A3 Sportback are paired with a manual six-speed gearbox, with the exception of the 1.8 TFSI which in the UK will initially be equipped exclusively with S tronic transmission. S tronic will be available as an option for all other engines. With engines producing up to 180PS, the power is delivered to the front wheels, but quattro permanent all-wheel drive featuring a newly developed multi-plate clutch will become available as an option for the 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TDI in the future.
The new Audi A3 Sportback is available to order now, and the first cars will reach customers here in March 2013.
Drivers call for higher fines for traffic offender
24 September 2012
The vast majority of drivers want to see much higher fines and tougher enforcement to tackle the risky and selfish drivers who repeatedly flout laws and get away with it, a survey suggests.
Nearly eight out of 10 drivers (78%) are in favour of fines of £200 or more for traffic offences such as speeding, using a mobile phone or careless driving - more than double the potential increase to £90 set out in recent government proposals. The survey, which was conducted by the road safety charity Brake and Direct Line, also reports that half of respondents (47%) think fines should be £500 or more.
In addition, drivers are also fed up with habitual offenders, who use loopholes to keep their licence. More than three in four (78%) think it's wrong that some drivers who tot up 12 points are allowed to dodge a ban under an ‘exceptional hardship' clause.
In October 2011, Brake revealed that more than 10,000 drivers in England and Wales were driving with 12 points or more on their licence. Ellen Booth, Brake senior campaigns officer, said: "The government must listen to the public, who recognise that far tougher penalties are needed to stop risky, selfish behaviour at the wheel and that we need to take dangerous repeat offenders off the roads. They have proposed increasing fixed penalty fines for driving offences to a paltry £90: we say this is nowhere near enough, and drivers agree.
“We need far higher fines in line with the fact these offences pose a threat to human life, and all too often lead to tragedy. We also need to ensure our penalty points system is working, and drivers who repeatedly flout the law aren't being allowed to keep their licence. We need a simple, clear message from government: drivers who risk lives won't be tolerated and should expect to pay a high price."
Andy Goldby, director of motor underwriting and pricing at Direct Line, said: "The current levels of fines for speeding, careless driving or using a mobile phone whilst behind the wheel, are comparable to parking penalties. A greater deterrent is needed to stop those who think it is perfectly acceptable to break the law and endanger lives on the roads. The large majority of drivers want it too."
The survey of 1,000 drivers found that nearly half of drivers (47%) want fines increased to £500 or more, while a further 31% want the fine more than doubled to £200. Only one in five drivers (23%) thought a £90 fine (the increase proposed by government) is sufficient to deter drivers taking illegal risks on roads.
Brake is calling for an increase in the level of fixed penalty fines for traffic offences to £500 at the very least, but ideally around £1,000, to reflect the seriousness of the crime. It also wants to see the closure of the ‘exceptional hardship' legal loophole, so drivers who accrue 12 points lose their licence without exception and continued government support to driver improvement courses for first-time, low level offenders who have not completed a course for three years, but offering a financial incentive (lower fine) to go on courses rather than the removal of penalty points.
Finally, it is calling for traffic policing to be a national policing priority, to ensure greater numbers of front line police are on patrol on our roads, deterring offending.
Transit Custom scoops first major award
24 September 2012
Ford’s all-new one-tonne Transit Custom has been voted International Van of the Year 2013 by a panel of 24 specialist journalists from across Europe. Announced at this year’s Hannover IAA Commercial Vehicle Show, Custom took the award scoring 117 out of a possible 133 points, more than the combined totals of the second-placed Dacia Dokker and third-placed Mercedes-Benz Citan.
Education key to EV uptake
24 September 2012
Fleets need educating on how to introduce low carbon vehicles and the planning required to gain a real-life insight into the performance and potential savings they may bring.
That’s the view of Cenex, which says many companies are trialling electric or hybrid vehicles without first considering vehicle utilisation.
“The key thing is planning and analysis upfront rather than taking a vehicle from a manufacturer as a demo for a month and seeing how it goes,” said Chris Walsh, head of technical support and consultancy at Cenex. “Fleets need to think about the characteristics of the vehicle, how to manage recharging and utilisation and, crucially, how to measure success.”
Cenex, the centre of excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies, is a delivery agency established to promote UK market development in low carbon and fuel cell technologies for transport applications. It receives support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. While an increasing number of fleets are employing hybrid technology, electric vehicles are yet to be adopted in large numbers, with range and purchase cost remaining the biggest stumbling blocks.
The latest figures available from the Department for Transport reveal that 1,706 claims have been made through the Plug-in Car Grant scheme while just 99 claims have been made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme. Nevertheless, Cenex believes that more fleets would embrace the technology if they employed more thorough trials when testing vehicles. For example, it says that many companies will introduce electric or hybrid vehicles into their fleet on trial without placing them into the fleet’s usual operational cycle, which means they do not see the benefits of replacing their current vehicles and find it hard to justify because of the increase in outright cost.
“The safer route for many companies is that they keep things the way they are as their current fleet works, but if they do not run the vehicle like the rest of the fleet they will not see the full benefits,” said Walsh at the Cenex LCV 2012 event last week. In the case of electric vehicles, the return on investment can take substantially longer if the vehicle is not properly utilised, as even with the various procurement schemes available, the lower the mileage, the longer the payback period will be.
“EVs are expensive vehicles to buy and save you money when you drive them,” said Walsh. “The more miles you drive, the more you save to offset the initial cost.”
The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership also believes the Government should be doing more to educate companies on the benefits of low carbon vehicles. “The Government has a key role to play in educating fleets on vehicle utilisation to try and think differently about how the vehicles are used,” said Andy Eastlake, from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. “There is more fragmentation of the vehicle market today and utilisation is much more important.”