20 Dec 17

Norbert van den Eijnden, CEO Alphabet: “Customer satisfaction is our #1 strategy”

Like its main competitors, Alphabet grows above the market average. “But our growth is organic”, says CEO Norbert van den Eijnden. “And we expect our growth to continue as we will stay customer-oriented and deliver added value service in eMobility”. What else does the future hold for BMW's multibrand lease and business mobility company managing 650,000 leased vehicles internationally, now its main competitor Daimler has acquired Athlon? 

Leasing and fleet management is still your core business. But as of 2017, is that still a growing industry? 
“As there is no reliable source covering all of Europe, an exact figure is impossible to provide. In 2016 we estimated a growth of 3.5% for the entire market, and between 6% and 7% for Alphabet. We expect the same growth rate for 2017.All major international lease companies are growing faster than average, but mainly through consolidation and acquisitions. We on the other hand have strong organic growth, through new business and new customers. And we expect that to continue in the years to come”.

What's the secret of that organic growth?
“More than others, we have focused and we will focus on customer satisfaction. That's our #1 strategy. Plus, we have successful, innovative solutions like AlphaCity and AlphaElectric. These show our customers the way to new, efficient mobility solutions, and that's what they want”. 

With all the talk about smart and alternative mobility, why is traditional fleet management still so popular? 
“One does not exclude the other. Moving to smart mobility doesn't mean you shouldn't focus on your core, which is still fleet management and leasing. We've always said that leasing will be our main activity, at least until 2020. Of course, we're already looking for new solutions, together with our customers. But even as a multimodal concept, mobility will still be centred on the car for years to come”. 

What are Alphabet's goals for the next two years? 
“First: to meet customer requirements. We don't believe in one-size-fits-all. We have to be customer-oriented, and adapt. At Alphabet, we believe that close cooperation with the customer is the key to success. When finding the right eMobility solution for our client, we take the time to understand the company, their goals and their fleet. Our consultants work together with the customer through the steps for switching on eMobility. For instance: actively exploring electrification opportunities, as we do with AlphaElectric.”
“Second element: Oasis, the new software we've been working on for two years. Uniquely, the central element in this database is not the car, but the user. Many others have tried this before, but failed. We are convinced we've found the right way. The system will be rolled out in Spain next spring, and in all other markets thereafter. Not via the classic waterfall method but more directly, by including users from the beginning. That process is both quicker and more sustainable, as it will involve more stakeholders, and all our markets from the beginning”. 

Why start with Spain? 
“Market size is crucial. Neither the biggest nor the smallest ones would be ideal. Spain is growing rapidly, from 33,000 to 50,000 vehicles under management in two years. That is the right size”.

Where are your innovative services like AlphaFlex, AlphaCity and AlphaElectric in place now?
“AlphaFlex, our flexible mobility service, is live in the Netherlands and Belgium. AlphaCity is available in nine countries: the Top 8 plus Austria. AlphaCity is our corporate CarSharing solution. It is becoming more and more popular, allowing companies to share valuable assets among employees on demand. We have taken this concept to the next level as first provider on the market with AlphaCity Corporate CarSharing.
We believe in offering individual advice and support. Because each fleet is different, every AlphaCity solution starts with an in-depth analysis of a company’s mobility needs and results in a comprehensive, customised solution. The business benefits from its own fully managed CarSharing scheme, accessed and booked online, directly by the employees. Moving forward, the customer can analyse and optimise the fleet performance on an ongoing basis with the individual Alphabet reports. Our next step will be to offer AlphaCity for multimakes. AlphaElectric, based on consultancy, is more feasible to deploy than AlphaCity – hence its already presence in all our 19 markets”.

Which will be your 20th market?
“We are always investigating a number of markets where we see a potential for fleet business growth. Focus continents therefore are North America and Asia in general. But I can't tell you anything more today.

Is the growth of AlphaElectric purely demand-driven?
“Some customers ask for it. But we also want to drive change and take responsibility. Electrification can be beneficial to us as suppliers, and to the customers, as it is cost-efficient and image-friendly”.

B2B may still be your core business, but how will you deal with the newer business segments coming up?
“B2B plus B2C looks nice on paper, but combining them will be a challenge. Remarketing via customers and social media is also a hot topic, and a promising avenue. But not an easy proposition either”. 

Not easy, but still the way forward?
“When I read Fleet Europe's interview with Tex Gunning, I was very surprised. His key message – that LeasePlan was going to focus on managing large fleets – I thought was a step back. But it was good to see that less than four months later, he's changed his mind; that he's now also convinced of the change towards mobility and new customer segments”.

How did you feel about Daimler acquiring Athlon? 
“It was a logical step. But I was also quite proud, as it meant they (Daimler) copied our (BMW Group) strategy. It shows that OEMs understand that the future will be driven by mobility, and that it's critical for them to offer mobility services. That's why mobility players like Athlon, and the knowledge they can bring, are so interesting to them. 
I expect more OEMs will go for partnerships with or acquisitions of lease suppliers and mobility companies. Outside interest for ALD, LeasePlan and Arval will increase. In future, it will make business sense to develop different strategies for different services within a single large company”. 

Will ALD’s listing on the stock exchange make a difference for the customer?
“The risk is that generating profits and focusing on shareholders means you become less service-oriented”.

Who's Norbert van den Eijnden:
- If you were not a CEO, what would you be doing: as a child I dreamt of being an archaeologist, but I quickly realised that’s quite a boring job. 
- What’s your passion outside the industry: I like speed. I’m a very active skier, downhill skiing and waterskiing.
- What’s the best restaurant in Munich: the Italian restaurant Il Mulino, and I also like the Indian restaurant Dhaba. 
- If you could choose a person to meet with: I would go for Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. I’m a fan and it would be fascinating to hear how he sees live, how Pink Floyd became what they are and how he managed the success.  

Authored by: Steven Schoefs