Viva Energy Australia is one of the country’s largest and most successful energy companies. However until recently, its name has been little known.
In August 2014, Viva Energy bought Shell’s Geelong refinery and nation-wide retail sites, and became the exclusive distributor of Shell branded fuels and lubricants in Australia.
As part of this acquisition, Viva Energy now operates Shell Card, a fuel card designed for fleet management.
“The change of ownership provided a new lens,” said Jonathan Dexter, national sales manager at Viva Energy.
“It gave us an opportunity to simplify and create a new roadmap, which began with a focus on the fundamentals.”
One of those fundamentals was flexibility.
“We didn’t consider ourselves agile enough to implement major projects or respond to customer demands at the required speed,” Jonathan said.
“However with the encouragement of the board, we embraced the challenge and are implementing the necessary changes. We see the need for organizational agility as a critical success factor and something we will continually challenge ourselves on.”
Viva Energy’s new focus would now be on responding nimbly to meet its customers’ needs for Innovative fuel and lubricants solutions.
And it would do this by concentrating on the difference its people can make.
Change is a big achievement
Effecting change in an organisation of this size is a challenge.
To comprehend the scale of the task, it helps to understand that the Geelong Refinery alone is a massive operation that supplies more than 50% of Victoria’s fuel.
Meanwhile Viva Energy provides a retail network of over 1000 Shell branded service stations sites spread across the entire Australian continent.
In the case of transport and fleet sales, Viva Energy wanted to add value by better understanding what customers wanted to achieve.
Jonathan believes that the key to implementing this vision across such a vast network is to create a team dedicated to helping customers reach their goals.
“It is about having a common goal and vision, and empowering the team to think and act differently,” Jonathan said.
“Critically, we also understand the need to build respect and trust with our customers. And to do this, we need to inherently understand their businesses.”
To gain that level of understanding, the Viva Energy team are out on the road more and more, talking with fleet customers.
“If we’re not doing that, we’re not listening to our customers enough,” he said.
Bending the rules
It has been two years since Viva Energy began operating the Shell business, and already the benefits of its more flexible, customer-focused approach are evident.
Previously Shell had a strong emphasis on processes and a company culture that ensured they were adhered to closely.
While Viva Energy acknowledges the positives of such a structured business environment, it also recognized its limitations.
In some instances the strict operating procedures meant turning away customers who were keen to do business.
Viva Energy has changed this thinking and now approaches business with fleet customers in an open-minded and flexible manner. Jonathan sees this as a proud achievement.
“Now, instead of turning away a potential customer because they don’t meet a rule, we’ll find a way to make it work.”
The word from the road
The common themes Viva Energy staff hear are that fleet managers are under pressure to save more and spend less.
Their fleets are expensive to operate, yet vital to their businesses. The demands to cut costs and maintain performance can seem like irreconcilable objectives.
Fleet managers are also pressured by the need to operate beyond the apparent scope of their role.
Today’s fleet manager’s roles also appear to be broadening with requirements to balance books, collect data, manage schedules, source vehicles and in some cases even vacuums crumbs out of floor mats. Then there’s the requirement to report to a number of department heads.
Fleet managers report that running and maintaining a fleet in this environment is more difficult than ever. They tell stories of their budgets being drained by a variety of factors including uneconomical driver behaviour and fluctuating pump prices.
Shell Card can help
After hearing first hand the issues that its customers find most challenging, Viva Energy is encouraging other fleet managers to consider using Shell Card.
Shell Card gives fleet managers greater control over the running of their fleet, streamlines reporting and allows for more methodical cost analyses.
A monthly transaction report makes for streamlined GST and fuel tax claims. The Shell Card system can also create detailed transaction reports between billing periods, and drill down to specific dates, cost centres or cards.
Customised reports can be created to monitor the driving of individuals. Fleet managers can also control how, when and where drivers use their cards. An alert email is sent when the card is used outside its set parameters.
As an Australian-based company, Viva Energy believes that Shell Card can help alleviate some of the issues that local customers report.
Viva Energy is open to more feedback on how products like Shell Card can assist fleet managers.
“Being local means we now make nimble decisions to support our customers,” said Jonathan Dexter.
“There are always going to be challenges. We welcome an opportunity to work in partnership to overcome them.”