By Alexander Budde
- 5 minute read
Cars are awesome. They really are. I was a car-owner for about seven years and I admit I’m feeling a bit sentimental after selling my last one for good. I still miss the immediate access to the world. And right in front of your door, especially on those nasty Helsinki weather days. But car-ownership is not all bliss.
Climate consciousness aside, owning a car can be a practical burden: maintenance, repairs, inspections, simply keeping it clean, and continuously harassing your kids to do the same. A laundry list responsibilities can dampen any joyride. So as much as I loved my car, I avoided driving. After letting it sit idle long enough for the brakes to rust out, the bill from my mechanic was the final nail in the coffin.
It’s all about service
Today, we have increasingly more options for car access as an alternative to owning. The growing amount of mobility start-ups is testament to this development across Europe. We have seen e-scooters spring-up in cities like mushrooms (to the disappointment of some). Up-and-coming companies betting on drone taxis have become the absolute dernier cri. German based Volocopter had its first test flights in Finland and some think that this mode of transportation might evolve even faster than the self-driving car industry. We also see better integration of separate services to enable frictionless multi-modal transportation (which Whim targets).
However, besides those latest additions to the world of transportation, a classic alternative to owning gets traction, especially for private customers: long-term renting or leasing. Whether you lease privately or through an employer, it might not be cheaper than owning, but there are advantages. The tedious laundry list of car ownership is taken care of by somebody else while you drive carefree.
A former colleague once described the difference between owning and leasing with a naughty example. When owning a car, he was consciously worried about keeping it in pristine condition, constantly worrying about its resale value. “Once I was leasing, I didn’t worry so much anymore about whether I will fit through a gate or loose a mirror.” This attitude might be somewhat drastic, but he had a point. All the spoiled fun of car-ownership is someone else’s problem. What’s not to like?
Yet “someone else” taking care of your car doesn’t happen magically. When something goes wrong or a scheduled maintenance is coming up, you need to get in touch with your service provider. And from the business owner’s or company’s point of view, there are other considerations to factor in.
Solving problems means good business
Secto Automotive’s CFO Ville Kujansuu explained, “When considering an upcoming car investment, companies look for the optimal way to finance it. It’s always good to ask, “What am I optimizing for?” Different forms of financing have an impact on a company’s cash flow, earnings, and balance sheet. There is no “right way” to finance fixed assets such as cars, but the decision should be aligned with the company’s situation and objectives.”.
Secto is Finland’s leading car leasing company with close to 10,000 cars and over 4,000 business customers. Secto’s differentiating factors draw from design thinking, service design, and experimentation culture which have enabled made-to-fit solutions, flexible customer service, and a more personalized experience compared to some of its global competitors. By catering to smaller businesses, Secto can treat customers as individuals rather than contract numbers. A personal touch certainly adds to the charm of hassle-free mobility.
“We strive to make it as easy as possible for our customers to interact with us, regardless of the channel. At the same time, we are building the capabilities to scale our operations, automate everything we can, without compromising the customer experience”, Kujansuu continues.
Secto Automotive is a reinventor of the traditional car leasing industry. Since its establishment in 2007, Secto has introduced new leasing offerings to the Finnish market, taken a dominant position in leasing services for electric vehicles and opened a whole new market segment in SME’s.www.secto.fi
Secto approached DK&A with the task to revamp their mobile application targeting drivers.
Secto’s brief was three-fold. Rewrite the codebase to improve the app’s stability and scalability, which would in turn enable a UX overhaul to smooth usability and allow for a gradual introduction of new services over time. Secto also identified the need to smooth interaction with drivers for both periodic and ad hoc needs. And of course, it could use a purely cosmetic face-lift too.
Before Wojciech “Wojtek” Zasina and Kacper Lenczuk, DK&A’s product designers from Wroclaw, gave the app an aesthetic nip and tuck, they used workshops and interviews to investigate ways to improve Secto’s customer experience. It soon became apparent that the existing app suffered crucial shortcomings rooted in technical dependencies.
For example, if a user closed the app in the process of recording fuel data, an entire entry could be lost. “We obviously needed to have a focus on making the app more reliable,” concluded Michał Słociński, Software Architect at DK&A Wrocław studio. “If your app isn’t robust, it will only be a source of frustration and deteriorate customers’ trust and loyalty. We needed to dissect third party integrations and make sure that data moving in the background isn’t dependent on the time and location of user actions. We solved this by decoupling the front-end from the back-end through data caching.”
Michał can’t hide some pride in underlining that good user experience is achieved by carefully designed software architecture. “And while we were at it, we also tackled the other two most common services: car wash and service ordering.”
Drawing from experience
The team knows what they’re talking about. Michał and Wojtek worked previously on the mobile app for Hoop, a mobility e-scooter start-up. “We quickly realized the conceptual similarities of those two applications. We built the Hoop app around a map as the center of all interactions. It worked pretty well back then and we decided to apply the same approach for Secto” Wojtek states. “This allowed us not only to improve the user experience, we also designed a framework that allows Secto to add more features later without risking to break the UI consistency.”
The scale of the team’s achievement became apparent when benchmarking Secto’s new app with other Finnish or even International competitors. No other leasing companies’ mobile touchpoint provides the ease-of-use of DK&A’s iteration. “It’s probably unique,” Michał grins. “It’s extremely valuable for Secto, as the app acts as service aggregator and main touchpoint with the brand.”
The Latest Model
I just sold my car and I’m looking forward to a few less hassles in my life. But I must admit, “car-as-a-service” forces me to reconsider the role of the car in my life, ushering in daydreams of Secto’s best-of-both-worlds scenario. Regular monthly transactions are handled by Secto’s app, not to mention it takes care of less predictable events as well. These are small things, but the perks sum up to a great value and smooth interactions make the service desirable and enjoyable.
So it seems there are many approaches to car ownership. Which model would you choose? And what color does that come in?
We strive to make it as easy as possible for our customers to interact with us, regardless of the channel. At the same time, we are building the capabilities to scale our operations, automate everything we can, without compromising the customer experience.