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IMI refutes Toyota findings of poor customer retail experience

The Institute of the Motor Industry has defended dealerships against accusations by Toyota that customer service standards across the industry fall below those in other retail environments.

Research by Toyota has shown many customers, and women in particular, have found the experience of shopping for a new car tainted by the hard-sell techniques of 'pushy' sales staff.

Sales staff in Toyota dealerships will now only approach customers if requested, following a pilot scheme in Bristol and Grimsby.

Toyota will offer customers a choice of product and sales information from the brochures, the internet or lastly, salesmen.

A Toyota spokeswoman said: "Our research showed us that across the industry the way customers are treated in dealerships falls below what they expect in other retail environments. We will put the sales staff further behind the scenes and see their role more as hosts or hostesses."

But a spokesman for the IMI warned: "Whilst Toyota must be commended for taking such a radical step businesses have proved consistently there is no substitute for a professionally qualified executive who knows how and when to approach a customer.

"Standards have risen dramatically over the years and training is everything. This is a far cry from other retail sectors where, quite often, customer service leaves a lot to be desired."

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