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Customer retention issues top of conference agenda

Gareth Gaston, a director of Hilton Hotels, is to speak at the annual AM Dealer Conference, on June 9 in the Metropole Hotel, Birmingham. His theme will be 'retaining more customers through e-commerce'.

Graham Potts, managing director at Inchcape UK, and Harley-Davidson director Nigel Villiers will also be addressing the key issue of customer retention. Harley-Davidson is renowned for its world-class levels of customer retention and Villers' presentation will offer some fresh thinking and new ideas for automotive retailers.

The conference, which is sponsored by Grant Thornton and Exxon Mobil and precedes the AM100 Annual Dinner, has a strong European theme. Paolo Cesarini, who reports to Mario Monti and is head of the motor transport division within the EU's Competition Directorate, will give the latest views on block exemption – and take a look at the location clause from the corridors of Union power in Brussels.

To complement this presentation, Alan Williams from the Office of Fair Trading will explain the OFT's role in enforcing block exemption and Philip Wade of HWB International will examine the strategies most likely to succeed for franchised dealerships and groups in the new BER regime. Kevin Gaskell of Eurotaxglass's will continue the European theme by giving an overview of car retailing on the Continent – including the opportunities for groups to expand beyond the confines of the UK.

For retailers who are thinking of buying or selling dealerships, Paul Burrows and Piers Trenear-Thomas of Grant Thornton will be sharing their expert knowledge of the market and recommending some guidelines for securing the right deal.

In addition, delegates will hear about the current state of play with FSA regulations from Blyth Morris, a director of Royal Sun Alliance. Patricia Richards of Automotive Skills, the new Government-backed industry training body, will draw the day to a close by showing how today's motor dealerships can become more successful – and retain more customers – through improved recruitment and training practices. Conference moderator will be Declan Curry, the main business presenter on BBC TV's Breakfast programme.

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