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Mike Albert Fleet Solutions Re-Created Their Digital Customer Experience (A Case Study)

Mike Albert Fleet Solutions isn’t a new name in the fleet game. They’ve been around for 61 years and remain one of the largest fleet leasing companies in North America, based in Cincinnati. They have offices all over the country and serve a wide variety of industries, including home services, beer distribution, healthcare, universities and more.

In December, 2016, Jeff Hart became President of Mike Albert Fleet Solutions, the first non-family member to hold this position in an effort to accelerate growth. Early decisions made by Hart and his leadership focused on aligning everyone around the client, designing operations to enhance the client relationship while accelerating investments in technology.

As part of the 2018 technology strategy, Mike Albert is shifting from an internal system improvement focus to providing the “best” overall client experience, where digital and mobile play a major role. Mike Albert has been aggressively updating and perfecting their client-facing programs with its sights set in providing the best experience in the fleet industry. This meant investing major resources in technology.

The First Step

To start, Mike Albert examined their mobile experience. One group who experiences Mike Albert Fleet Solutions directly—and frequently—is the fleet drivers. Initially, drivers just entered their monthly mileage in a web portal and could search for maintenance or other vendors online. From Mike Albert’s perspective, however, it needed a true mobile experience.

“If you’re a provider of any tech and you don’t have a solid mobile presence, you might as well not exist,” says Brian Brown, VP of Information Technology. After all, more than 50% of all internet usage is now mobile. “Five years ago, nobody really asked about your mobile experience. But they were starting to,” he said. So they kicked off their customer experience reinvention by developing a new mobile experience for drivers.

Connecting with Gaslight

Mike Albert chose to outsource this project due to resource constraints. A personal referral led them to Gaslight and right away, they liked Gaslight’s agile approach, which enables an innovative, “startup” mindset within established companies—a perfect fit for growth-minded companies like Mike Albert.

And it was. Gaslight collaborated with Mike Albert on every step of the project, including defining the project itself. “When we first started, we weren’t sure if we wanted a mobile app or mobile-friendly site,” says Brown. “Thanks to their agile process, Gaslight was able to launch the initiative while keeping both options open to us.”

As the two companies continued to improve the user’s mobile experience, the decision became clear: an app would be the most mobile-friendly option. “Gaslight helped us take a site and wrap it in an app,” says Brown. “It’s an app, but embedded in a browser. Our team is very fluent in web-based apps, so this was an ideal solution—thanks to Gaslight taking the time to understand and meet our specific needs.”

Choosing the Best Tech for the Project: Elixir

Another question to answer early on was which programming language to use. For this, Brown turned to his Director of Development & Infrastructure, Brian Bathe. Bathe said, “We wanted to build using technology that’s highly productive and doesn’t make it difficult to adapt or scale as products mature and become more sophisticated.”

Gaslight recommended Elixir, a newer language with the frameworks, libraries and development toolchain that make development and deployment much easier—but a growing language that isn’t yet an area of expertise for all dev shops. Fortunately, it is for Gaslight, which excited Mike Albert.

“The Elixir frameworks borrow a lot of conventions from established frameworks like Rails,” explains Bathe, “We have traditionally been a JEE shop, but I wanted our developers to experience new paradigms to provide an environment here at Mike Albert that attracts and retains passionate, energetic, and creative people. A lot of factors go into creating that environment, and being progressive about the technologies we leverage is one of those.”

Bathe also says, “It’s a safe bet that Elixir is here to stay and will continue to gain market share. There were some pretty big challenges to get it to work inside of an enterprise with legacy systems, but we were willing to make the investment so we could continue to evolve our technology.”

A New App and A New Process

Gaslight brought more than great software development to the table; they brought a new level of speed and agility. “They were aggressive in delivering more quickly to our clients than we were even comfortable,” says Brown. “One of the ideas they pushed was not being afraid to fail. We learned by working with Gaslight that every time we move fast and regroup, we learn something, because we’re getting real feedback. Not to mention, we’ll get to ROI more quickly.”

For a company to willingly open themselves up to failure and feedback—even constructively—is much easier said than done. But Mike Albert’s willingness to adopt this mindset resulted in great value. For example, one of the early challenges was an inconsistent authentication model for end users. “In 95% of apps, login includes email,” Brown says. “But 15 years ago, it didn’t. Since we’ve been around for over 60 years, we had multiple accounts with no email and had to unwind a mess of data.”

In the cleanup, there were a few gaps, which means 3-4% of users couldn’t log in from day one. While this was a problem that the team began solving right away, Mike Albert was glad they had gone ahead with rolling out the new version. Learning from those who could log in significantly accelerated feedback.

“Now all of our initiatives follow this agile mindset, whether technical or not,” says Brown, “IT has been doing this for awhile, but it’s permeating everywhere.”

Part of Gaslight’s process also included new perspective: tech projects aren’t just developed, they’re created. That means a designer is fully integrated in the process—critical to customer experience. Without a designer on staff, Mike Albert’s project outcomes often produced effective and efficient tools but lacked a feeling of excitement and creativity. The new mobile app gave Mike Albert early insights about the power of visually managing a technical initiative.

Now, Mike Albert Fleet Solutions has a brand new mobile app that customers love. But perhaps more importantly, their customer experience is built on new and progressive technology and they’ve adopted company-wide internal processes and perspectives that will have long-reaching impacts. By partnering with Gaslight, Mike Albert has laid the foundation for ongoing innovation as they continue address every layer of their customer experience.

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