Putting customers first the right move for local start-up

GetVan’s founder and CEO shares how enhancing the service experience helps his company stand out in a crowded business space

Mr James Neo, founder and CEO of GetVan, an on-demand van rental service. PHOTO: GETVAN

Mr James Neo had a problem. As the founder of GetVan, an on-demand van rental service, he faced a hurdle familiar to those in the logistics space: differentiating itself from the competition.

To customers, logistics is a decidedly unsexy business. It is merely a transactional service to get things from point A to point B; hardly the kind of stuff that generates brand love. This makes it difficult for logistics companies to stand out in a crowded field.

But Mr Neo, a full-time national serviceman turned entrepreneur, found a niche that has enabled it to give established players a run for their money - by providing a superior customer experience.

GetVan's origins

Like the origin story of many start-ups, GetVan was born out of frustration with the status quo, or more specifically a trip Mr Neo made to a furniture store in 2016. "I bought some stuff and wanted to bring it home immediately, but they scheduled delivery for a week later," says the 44-year-old. "I had to set aside an entire day just waiting for them at home."

Mr Neo's experience led him to ask, "What if hiring a van could be as easy as ordering a taxi?" And with that, GetVan was born.

Flexible options

"Each move is unique," says Mr Neo. "It can range from sending a small parcel to moving [the contents of] an entire room." This variability was a source of frustration for many consumers, he adds.

Some competitors offered bundled services, forcing customers to pay more for extra space or unneeded manpower. GetVan's platform, meanwhile, was designed to be fully customisable, allowing customers to pick and choose only the services that fit their needs.

The base charge, which starts from as low as $8 for the smallest vehicle type, offers the bare bones: a van and a driver. From there, customers can build their order, selecting add-ons like additional pickup locations and getting the driver to help with the move.

The affordability of GetVan's service has made it particularly popular with university students moving into hostels and bargain hunters on Carousell. In both segments, having a no-frills service was a big draw.

In the early days of GetVan, Mr Neo (left) personally interviewed every driver and accompanied them during moving jobs. PHOTO: GETVAN

Growing the service

Strong word of mouth has helped GetVan steadily grow its customer base. With the success of its concept, the start-up expanded its fleet to include larger vehicles to accommodate larger moves. As its expertise grew, Mr Neo was also able to identify other gaps in the market.

One underserved segment was passenger services for large groups. This led to the launch of GetVan Ride, which focuses on private hires for six, 10 and 13 passengers.

A third service was also added, inspired by feedback from its older customers.

"Many of our users liked our goods transport service so much they started asking if we did corporate deliveries as well. That's why we launched GetVan Business," he explains. The service focused on designing bespoke logistics solutions for corporate clients, the bulk of which were small- and medium-sized enterprises.

In four short years, GetVan has evolved from a purely logistics service to a transport platform. This year, it is poised for even more growth. In September, it was acquired by Moovaz, a global relocation service with over 2,000 partner networks. Mr Neo will retain his role in running GetVan while also heading supply chain operations at Moovaz.

Creating a strong culture

Even with its expansion, GetVan remained steadfast in its commitment to great service. For Mr Neo, the cog of a customer-centric company is its drivers.

"It all starts with them. Our drivers are our ambassadors," Mr Neo says.

This starts with paying them a fair wage, for reasons both altruistic and pragmatic. "If we don't pay them well, they will rush to complete jobs. Paying them well means they can provide the level of service we expect," he adds.

At the same time, GetVan also has a strict code of conduct to ensure that service standards are met. "While we are a pro-driver platform, we do not hesitate to ban those who do not meet our service standards. We take the customer experience very seriously and we instil this culture very strongly," Mr Neo says.

During the start-up's early days, Mr Neo interviewed every driver personally. "We went through a lot of applications to find drivers with the right attitude," he says.

"It is a difficult task. Their role is not only to fulfil a job but to delight the customer."

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