One of the most critical elements of operating a successful fleet is Stakeholder Satisfaction. During my career as a fleet professional, this became paramount early on as I began serving each customer’s needs. As our RTA fleet team has embarked on our purpose to “help fleets succeed,” we identified early that Stakeholder Satisfaction was highly related to success. It was so important, that we made Stakeholder Satisfaction the first of our four pillars of fleet success. We defined it as, “Living up to the expectations of those who depend on the job you do.” This said, one of the challenging aspects of Stakeholder Satisfaction is identifying exactly who your fleet stakeholders are.
Identifying Fleet Stakeholders
The definition we created for Stakeholder Satisfaction sounds simple, but don’t let its simplicity fool you -- there is a lot to unpack in this definition. As a fleet professional, I have always embraced the concept of asking the “Five-Whys” invented in 1930 by Sakichi Toyoda, Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of the Toyota Corporation. Today, Toyota -- along with many other industries -- use the “Five-Whys” to get to the root of every problem needing a solution. Don’t be fooled, however -- the “Five-Whys” don’t necessarily start with “why,” and may also include “who,” “what,” “where,” and “how.”
Using this “Five-Why” approach, I would advise each professional to start with brainstorming who their fleet stakeholders are and begin by asking simple questions like:
- Who are your stakeholders? Not just your customers, but what about your customers’ customers?
- What about your employees, and their families?
- What about the impact you have on our communities when a fleet is sharing the highways with others, or a city fleet serving the needs of a taxpayer? How do we serve the community’s needs?
- What about your supplier community and your daily interactions?
- What about your peers and colleagues that you network with on a regular basis?
A great method to begin this process is to draw three separate overlapping circles. Where these circles intersect is your fleet. The red circle represents your “primary (1st)”; yellow is secondary (2nd) and blue is tertiary (3rd).
The next step, either with yourself or your team (preferred), is to start listing all your primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders, respectively.
As your team begins this process, you may discover your primary stakeholders are the customers you contact almost weekly (or who contact you weekly). These primary customers are usually fleet asset consumers (departments, agencies, etc.), employees, technicians, fast-moving parts suppliers, fuel providers, etc. The secondary stakeholders might be peers in different departments or frequently used suppliers. And lastly, tertiary stakeholders would generally be those you interact with infrequently like politicians, leaders, the public, and perhaps your employees’ family members.
Once you go through this exercise, you’ll most likely find the list of stakeholders is a rather large number (more than you thought?). So why is this exercise important?
The Importance of Understanding Your Stakeholders
It’s been said that stakeholders can make or break you as an organization. During my career, I’ve learned much about satisfying stakeholders. One incident that comes to mind was when our fleet was acquiring a large number of trucks operating on compressed natural gas (CNG). We set this sustainability goal as an organization thinking we were doing the right thing for all the stakeholders. Unfortunately, what we encountered was just the opposite when truck routing dispatchers depended on the truck to be operational when the temperatures dipped below freezing.
I recall one specific dispatcher we visited in the Northeastern United States who could not get enough CNG trucks out the gate due to a polar vortex that hit this region in 2014. In this case, the dispatcher would largely be considered a tertiary stakeholder since this was an employee that fleet seldom interacted with while managing its assets. However, what we found was a dispatcher near tears when he had to assign CNG trucks, and they wouldn’t start due to the extreme weather. I learned during this episode in my career that you need to involve all three levels of stakeholders from beginning to end. After our investigation as to the issues causing the problem, we immediately halted the CNG program and involved our engine and fuel suppliers (secondary stakeholders) to help us solve the problems discovered after going through the “Five-Whys” to find the root cause. The problem turned out to be a simple fix to relocate a sensor that was freezing.
On the flip side, I was contacted by the company CEO (tertiary stakeholder) to find out why someone had the audacity to halt this sustainability initiative. As a fleet professional, I took full responsibility for this decision and let the CEO know we supported the initiative but had to fix the issues before we resumed the program. This also turned out to be a good life lesson in extreme ownership -- taking full responsibility for this CNG debacle. My boss ended up complimenting me for this tough decision. He was impressed that someone would take full responsibility. The company solved this CNG issue quickly and we resumed the program with a positive outcome for all stakeholders.
What Do Stakeholders Really Want?
After surveying hundreds of stakeholders during my career as a fleet professional and industry consultant, below is a quick Top 10 list of what all stakeholders want, whether they are labeled as primary, secondary, or tertiary stakeholders:
- Actively listen and solve their issues
- Respect and appreciate their concerns
- Foster positive relationships
- Learn who they are as a person
- Understand what they expect from you
- Deliver on promises made (reliability, availability, fast turn-around)
- Hold often, open, and direct communications
- Be proactive and check in on them regularly
- Always exceed their expectations
- Keep people employed with a paycheck
Obviously, there are many more things that stakeholders may want, but this is a good start. As a young fleet manager, a supplier friend of mine said, “Steve it’s really all about relationships and nothing else really matters.” I have always taken this advice to heart, and it has led me to always treat everyone like my most important stakeholders.
Lastly, to truly succeed in stakeholder satisfaction, you must measure your success. This can be something as simple as a periodic survey of stakeholder sentiment to receive their feedback to something more structured like a CSAT or NPS score used by most organizations. Staying focused on frequent stakeholder feedback can prevent a serious complaint that blindsides you and catches you completely off-guard.
Remember: Stakeholders are just people!
Let me know your thoughts on how you identify your stakeholders (firstname.lastname@example.org), and if you need tips on how to help your fleet succeed.
About the Author: Steve Saltzgiver is the Director of Strategic Innovation at RTA. His primary role is to help RTA make fleets successful. Steve is a long-time veteran of fleet management, having directed two large corporate fleets of over 50,000 assets with budgets exceeding $1 billion annually, and two large state fleets. He has been recognized as a fleet management expert and consultant. Currently, Steve is a member of the RTA Executive Leadership Team and directly oversees the Product Management Group, and helps lead organizational strategy. The RTA Product Management group’s primary responsibility is to create leading-edge products and services to aid fleets with a winning strategy to become successful.