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Making best practice work

Some dealers swear by set procedures to drive the business forward.

Others complain that processes are too rigid, and take the human element out of the sale.

AM100 group Ridgeway’s strategy is to combine a private company’s focus on its friendly face and strong customer relations with the strategic strengths of a plc, such as process-driven management and group-aligned key performance indicators.

Managing director Daksh Gupta is only a few weeks into the role, having joined in April.

Nevertheless, he is getting to grips with a business culture similar to one-time employer Inchcape.

Since Ridgeway’s takeover of Pentagon in January 2007, which more than doubled its size, the business has put management controls in place to ensure its sites are run effectively.

Gupta said: “We’re quite bullish about the fantastic brands we represent.

But while there’s some responsibility on the vehicle manufacturers’ side, we also have to look at ourselves and make sure that we maximise every opportunity.

It’s about doing the simple things really well.”

“If you have really good processes and they are managed properly then you can make a difference.”

Management information is vital to understanding performance.

At 7.30am each day every manager gets the group’s ‘Good Morning’ text, which provides them with a detailed breakdown of how the business is doing against its targets.

They then pass on the message to their teams at their morning meetings.

Ridgeway’s chairman David Newman and chief executive John O’Hanlon agree that the business has to be people-orientated to achieve results.

They know their staff and befriend them as they expect them to befriend their customers – Newman holds an annual barbecue at his home for all staff, and high achievers are rewarded with trips abroad.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# At Winchester, a customer support unit maintains focus on the CSI of all Ridgeway’s Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler businesses.

The eight-strong team was recruited for its customer care experience, not motor retail.

This system will be replicated for its Volkswagen and Audi franchises in future.

A buyer is given a dedicated customer support adviser, to contact in case of any query and who pro-actively contacts them with reminders for servicing or other issues, including up-selling.

“We strive to build a one-to-one relationship,” said Gupta.

During the first three years of ownership, the customer receives 27 to 28 follow-up calls, starting with a satisfaction check two days after the vehicle handover.

Problems are passed to the relevant manager, and remain live on the CRM system until the unit is told of a resolution.

Management pay plans include an uncapped bonus linked to their dealership’s CSI scores.

The customer-focused strategy put Ridgeway to the top of Mercedes-Benz’s UK network for CSI in 2007.

Three years ago the Mercedes business was 13th under then owner Pentagon.

Ridgeway’s Audi dealership in Newbury is also top of its network.

Gupta said: “In a traditional process, by the time a complaint gets to a manager the customer is so hacked off that the manager has to spend hours and hours sorting it out.

It puts a massive cost on management time.

Thanks to the customer support unit, our managers have time to keep on top of their business.”

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