Erik Swerts lives and breathes mobility and leasing. He has at least thirty years of lease experience under his belt and has held several different positions at Alphabet. Since 1 September he has been at the helm of Alphabet Belgium. Get to know the new Managing Director and his five ‘missions’.
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Multi-modal mobility as an opportunity
‘It was only until a few years ago that we were a car leasing company down to our marrow. Everything was focussed on the car: the standard company answer to all mobility questions. Today, and definitely tomorrow, we are moving toward a ‘multi-mobility’ concept. Cars will definitely continue to play a role of crucial importance but, in addition to this, there will be other mobility solutions at play. Alphabet will develop into a service provider that comes up with total solutions to mobility issues. For that matter, mobility is not simply about a combination of cars, bicycles and public transport, but also concerns issues such as flexible working arrangements and teleworking. The minds among business leaders are becoming more progressive, and Alphabet sees this as an opportunity. It goes without saying that we will have to adapt. However, we have the competencies and know-how to assist companies in their transition from car mobility to multi-mobility. For example, this is how Alphabet partners closely on DriveNow, a concept making 300 cars available for car sharing in Brussels by using an app. All of this sounds really strange, because we often still see car ownership as something of a given. The younger generation sees that completely differently. Their focus is considerably more on use rather than ownership. And this evolution is moving at breakneck speed.’
‘Over the next years we’ll be treading two different paths. Path One: we are going to create a full-blown Alphabet Experience centred on the lease car, our classic product. Whether you currently lease from us or somewhere else, the cars are exactly the same. There is also scarcely any variation in contracts and prices. So why should you still go for Alphabet? Because it makes you feel good. Although I do acknowledge that that may sound pretty cliché. However, we do a good job taking care of business. We help customers quickly get out of trouble when problems crop up. Friendliness, openness, transparency: that’s where we make the difference. Path Two: upgrades to mobility. We have deals that nobody else does: real products, for real needs. This innovation, tied to our human approach, is what will make the difference.
The driver is a key element
‘In the past, “the customer” was the company having concluded a contract with us. These days the focus is also on the driver. These two parties have different needs, but our approach is occasionally still too homogeneous. We are investigating how this might possibly be improved. Likely there will be teams organised that are primarily focussed on the customer, while others will then be responsible for taking care of the Fleet Managers. Alphabet has always had the habit of not being afraid to call itself into question. It’s an integral part of our culture, and certainly in this changing world it’s a must when it comes to remaining successful.’
Challenging each other every day
‘Naturally every company wants to ensure that all its internal issues have been dealt with first. However, in doing so they do lose sight of the outside world from time to time. And it’s there that a tremendous danger lurks. We have the best people at Alphabet, of that I’m convinced. However, we must also always let our logic be ‘outside-in’ rather than ‘inside-out’. That has to be our challenge, day in and day out. To make this possible, I want to create an environment in which people are allowed to challenge each other, without them experiencing this as risky or being hesitant about expressing themselves. In itself that sounds reasonable, but its accomplishment is definitely not self-evident.’
People business centred on 5 core values
‘I’m not fond of talking in one-liners, but I do know that Alphabet is a company that in all sincerity works continually toward the improvement of its service provision. And, underway, it goes without saying that we make the requisite mistakes. I also don’t see that as a bad thing, as long as we at least learn something from it. We do business by applying our five core values: responsibility, appreciation, transparency, dependability and openness. It’s ‘only’ five and they are so ‘basic’ that they’re also fundamental to everyday life. And that’s exactly the point, because we are a business in which people come first. It’s made Alphabet what it is today: a company with a soul. That’s not what I say, it’s what our customers are saying. And that soul, that’s what makes it genuine. That’s what makes the difference. And it’s something that will never change. ‘