Behind The Curtain

Behind The Curtain
27 Sep 2019
By Ronnie Lawson-Jones
I practice what I preach and lease my vehicles. I have also worked in the leasing industry for over 3 years so I know a great deal about the subject behind the scenes, or at least that’s what I’d like to think! 

While doing some brainstorming and thinking about what to write about next following my road tax piece it got me thinking about how little I actually write about leasing and the industry itself.

The reason I don’t write about car leasing often on our blog section is that the entire website is about leasing, our blog section doesn’t have to be about leasing. I don’t want people to get sick of leasing. I want people to enjoy our website. Plus, we feel that blog sections in the industry could be a lot better than ‘lease this’, ‘lease that’, ‘check out this deal’ and all the rest of it and we don’t want to contribute to that.

Moreover, our articles which have the most engagement are never about leasing - far from it. In fact, last week, which was the week commencing 9th of September, out of the top 10 most visited articles only 2 of them were about car leasing - returning a damaged car and cheapest automatic lease deals.

This time around, though, I wanted to write an article about car leasing for a change but I didn’t want to join the gaggle of dry leasing articles out there on the web that essentially says the same thing - lease this great car with us as it's cheap and we’re great.

This got me thinking. It got me thinking about just how fast-paced the industry is internally and how the rapid inclusion and exclusion of deals can affect the experience of a leasing customer without them even knowing it. It got me thinking about what kind of topics people not ever blog about on leasing websites - what is it that no one ever covered? What hasn’t been written about to death?

So, it got me wanting to write an article about how the fluidity of the industry works and to give some insight on what happens ‘behind the curtain’ as the saying goes Perhaps help customers understand a little more about how we work and why the website can change at a drop of the hat and honour our pledge to be a transparent and human company.

Deals can land at any time

Where better to start than to talk about our main product - car leasing deals.

Our website - the personal, business and special offers pages, in particular, are filled with special offers 365 days of the year. However, these deals are often added manually and can be added at any time. We appreciate this can be a pain for shoppers who are looking for a specific car just to be disappointed if there isn’t a hot offer for it at that time, here are a few ways a special offer are sourced.

Sometimes we may get some advanced notice from dealerships and finance companies which can help us mobilise some marketing materials and notify our customers with some time to plan. With these kinds of deals, there is often plenty of stock and the campaign will last for many weeks and even months.

However, sometimes a seriously hot offer can come out of nowhere with very limited stock which is unlikely to last more than a few days (sometimes even less!) - this leaves us with very little time to market them and get the message out there for people to be quick if they want this offer. These are the kind of deals that can lead to frustration on both sides - we don’t want to come across as pushy salespeople at any time but we have to get the message across that these cars are going to go fast! So, if you see a really great deal in our stock offers section don’t hang about too long!

deals come and go

Sometimes we may actually get a hot offer on a single car that is ready to go - in this case we will typically let our customers know who have recently enquired on that make/model or something similar. Likelihood is that this car will be gone within the hour and often they go so fast they may never be added to the website at all. All the more reason to pick up the phone to get the latest scoop!

For us in the marketing and pricing team, we often have to drop everything when a seriously hot offer comes in because we know there is very little time to get the message out. It’s also our job to remove special offer prices when they’re out before too many customers get disappointed - this is covered in a bit more detail later though.

The most likely time for special offers to come up is at the beginning of every month and especially at the beginning of every quarter. However, what the special offer might be we still may not know until the day we get told by either the dealer or the finance company. At the end of the day, our deals are sourced either by a dealer or a finance company and although we work tirelessly to negotiate All Car Leasing exclusives quite often we can be at the mercy of a third party.

So, the point of this section is to highlight how quickly the industry can move and checking our website every day will almost always be a different experience each time. Our advice is if you see something you like and it’s in stock, move quickly to avoid disappointment. I also hope that by understanding how the deal ecosystem works you can also understand how much time and effort All Car Leasing’s employees throughout put in to get so many competitive deals and still consistently score highly on review websites such as Trust Pilot. It’s not easy!

Liking our social media channels can help you get the latest scoop, too, so we recommend that!

Deals can go out of stock quickly

This point goes hand in hand with the previous point. The way that stock cars work for 99% of car leasing deals out there (not just on our website) come from stock that can be accessed by several brokers and intermediaries. This means that if we were to say there are 10 left there isn’t 10 left with us but rather there are 10 left at the dealership.

If another broker sold one of them, then we’d have 9 left.

This means that stock cars can go fast and sometimes faster than we realise because of other brokers selling them and obviously we don’t get notified unless we ask the dealership for an update. This can, on rare occasions, lead to disappointment for customers. To be fair it works both ways and we could be the one to sell the last of the stock but it is not our responsibility to let our competitors know this!

On the flip side, what we try to do more and more is get commitment deals where stock cars are ‘ring-fenced’ with us so that the stock is ours alone. This isn’t always achievable and it’s quite tricky to pull off but in a world of so many competitors, we will try everything we can to offer something unique to our customers.

The benefits of stock cars are usually a lower price and rapid delivery which is why they’re so common on our list of enquiries. If you see something you like and it’s in stock don’t hang about...

Deals can just be removed without notice

The title says it all really. Sometimes a dealership/funder deal can just be pulled without notice and without reason. This means that us gremlins in the marketing team need to remove it quickly and then account managers may need to give out some bad news for any enquiries still in the system relating to that car.

Cars going out of stock isn’t the only reason a deal may be removed without notice, sometimes it can be an error that the deal was offered in the first place and sometimes we may not be given the explanation.

This is just one of those things that happen in the industry. It’s no one’s fault but it’s the customer who is left disappointed and we don’t enjoy it. It’s not that common, though.

However, it is our job to find the next best thing to try and take the sting out of the situation if we can by finding the same deal somewhere else or failing that, a vehicle that is as close to it as possible.

One of the indirect consequences of this is that we often get a lot of traffic to pages of old hot deals and a lot of enquiries asking ‘do you still have this deal’ and so on. We don’t enjoy telling people they’ve missed their chance because we’re always worried that they may think that the original deal was just a ploy to get them to call.

But it does back up our point that if you really want a deal we have on and it’s in stock then moving quickly is the best course of action.

Wanting a specific car may not be the best option for you

What a strange thing to say. Surely we want our customers to get the car of their dreams every time? Well, of course we do but getting the dream car may not be the best deal in terms of timely delivery and prices.

We’ve touched previously on how deals come and go and leasing is a fast paced industry. Say you have your heart set on a Blue Focus ST with a panorama roof but it’s not in stock and could be up to 3 months wait time, but we have a red Focus ST without panorama roof that you can get for a lot less, without the options and can be delivered to your door in 2 weeks.

These kinds of scenarios happen all of the time and having an open mind and an eye for a deal can really save you so much money and stress.

Of course, for many, they still want the dream car and are happy to wait for it and that’s perfectly fine.

Mistakes can happen

On the other side of the screen or phone, we’re human and humans can make mistakes. For us, we may make the odd typo here and there, we may add the price wrong on the first attempt, or we may mark something as in stock by mistake when it’s actually a factory order.

Although it is not strictly a mistake, one of the common problems we encounter is having stock cars advertised when all the stock has literally just gone. Naturally there can be a delay when that final unit has been sold (elsewhere) and any enquiries during this time can result in disappointment - we hate that.

Mistakes can also be made by third party suppliers which can really throw a spanner in the works sometimes.

We’re not saying expect them (mistakes) we’re just saying that we are a company that relies on real people to get the job done and not just machines, chatbots and scripts.

We really do some brokering for you

Sometimes we wish we could hold open days for prospective customers so that they can see where the documentation fee goes. Our work doesn’t stop when you put the phone down and a few people will be working on your file to ensure that everything is hunky-dory. We often have account managers work way after the office has closed and over the weekend.

An account manager will go out of their way to find the best deal for you by calling every dealer and finance company. An account manager will research the vehicle on your behalf if you have any questions about options and accessories for example, this may not sound like a lot but if you consider the vast amount of different vehicles we deal with becoming an expert on a specific derivative is no easy feat.

Once the deal has been agreed our admin team will make sure every document is as it should be and chase relentlessly to ensure your car is delivered on time.

Considering we deal with thousands of customers we still believe we offer personalised 1-to-1 service and our broker fee is more than justified because of what we offer.

There is no one set price

When we place adverts online, we have to come up with a headline deal, for an example “Lease this Golf R from only £299.99 a month”. This is common practice and it obviously is there to entice people but once a customer takes a look at the deal and tells us their requirements in terms of initial payment, how many miles a year they drive and how many years they will get a different quote from the headline deal - this is normal but we totally get how it can look misleading.

There are at the very least 90 different permutations to every single deal. That means there are 90 different monthly prices we can give you. The deal configurator shows you 90 if you were to spend ages flicking through every different combination. This is why we say there is no set price - there is only a set price once you’ve told us all of your requirements.

This complicated system can make cars more or less expensive than what you may think or how they appear in adverts, which is why it’s always worth using the website as a guide but to get in touch with us over the phone to really drill down what you’re after.

The challenge for us, of course, is to make sure that our prices are transparent in our adverts which you can see from a large amount of information in the advert text, and that they are competitive as well - this is a fairly tough job that I think we do quite well.

However, what we get from time to time are people asking “what’s the deposit”, or “how can I apply” which inevitably has to lead to us suggesting sending an enquiry or calling up for a quote that’s tailored specifically to them. On occasion, we may get “that’s not the price advertised” comment which is a difficult comment to respond to without directing them to the deal configurator or without waffling but I hope I’ve given a detailed answer here.

The deal is complicated but necessary

car deal

Following on from the above point, we completely get that a deal looks to be complicated and our pricing is not as straightforward as Auto Trader or a manufacturer’s own site where they can comfortably just say “X is the price and that’s it”. With leasing the perceived complication is necessary and it’s not in fact complicated once you break it down. The reason it probably looks complicated is:

You can pretty much set the initial payment (deposit) to whatever you want, so for those who wonder “What’s the deposit” and there can’t be a clear “well, the deposit is X” will probably find this to be a bit counter productive but in reality leasing offers more customisation.

How many miles a year you drive does matter and it can be as little as around 3,000 to 30,000 which can have a huge impact on the price, maintenance costs etc

You can have it for 2, 3 or 4 years which sounds simple but deals can often be cheaper over a certain selection and it can make a difference to maintenance costs and whether or not the car is out of warranty in the final year.

There are also several myths surrounding leasing which we’ve covered on our hefty leasing myths section on the blog and in episode 3 of the podcast so we won’t repeat it here.

All of this can make leasing seem complicated when compared to the used car market or even HP/PCP but once you sit down and speak with an account manager you’ll see that the complication is necessary to ensure a personally tailored deal can be arranged for your specific needs - that’s the key point here - a personally tailored deal is something not many other finance types can offer.

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