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Inchcape adopts ‘hostess’ scheme

Inchcape Retail is to replicate a Toyota-style ‘hostess’ service across all its UK retailers as part of a new sales-driven programme.

Insight, developed on the back of research with current and former customers, has been on trial with three dealerships since late last year.

The initiative is intended to create differentiation for the Inchcape brand while delivering for its franchise partners, and focuses on four key drivers: operational excellence, people development, market growth and customer experience.

“Customers said they wanted us to do the simple things well – make them feel like a customer and do what we said we would,” says Inchcape UK marketing director Ken Lee.

Around two thirds of Inchcape’s network has adopted the meeter-greeter concept, which has been extended to include forecourt hosts who either direct customers to a parking space or park their car for them if there is a lack of room.

“This feature improves the first impression,” says Lee.

Inchcape’s call centre in Milton Keynes is piloting two schemes to build relationships with customers. It will handle in-bound service bookings for the company’s Toyota and Lexus showrooms – the service will eventually be extended to the rest of the group – and will also be responsible for service reminders, CSI and lost sales follow up.

“We are changing the culture from transaction-led to relationship driven,” says Lee. “It’s a tool that means we can still perform when the market is slow.”

Inchcape puts its strong first quarter down to this new focus. At the companies annual meeting, outgoing chairman Sir John Egan told shareholders: “UK Retail has enjoyed a positive start to the year. It is expected that this will continue.”

Much of the improvement has come from used cars, aftersales and F&I earnings, according to Spencer Lock, Inchcape Retail managing director. “We are ahead of last year and ahead of expectations in a challenging market. Our new car performance is behind plan, but if the market isn’t there then it’s our job to sell something else,” he says.

“This year won’t be an easy ride but we are confident that we are on the right track. Insight will help us grow revenues and profitability.”

More details about the Inchcape Insight programme will be published in AM June 3.

  • Conner McCormack will be appointed finance director at Inchcape Retail UK in July after Mark Raband was promoted to head up the company’s new business development team. Inchcape plc is also looking for a group finance director after Alan Ferguson took a high level post at BOC. It also needs a replacement for chief executive Peter Johnson who becomes chairman at the end of this year.
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