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Franchised dealers attack 'service myth'

Manufacturers and dealers are to work together to raise awareness of the benefits of franchised dealer service.
They aim to make consumers better informed of the skills, competencies, specialist training and customer service that put franchised dealers ahead of independent rivals.

Franchised dealers face the challenge of combating a frequent perception that independents do exactly the same job for a smaller bill.

That was a message from Paul Everitt, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, during a meeting earlier this month between leading carmaker and dealer executives, trade bodies and journalists.

“Many people believe the experience and value being offered in the franchised dealer network is no different to any other part of the marketplace. That clearly is not the case,” said Everitt.

He said the franchised sector is of fundamental importance to the UK motor industry and to consumers.

“It’s important that we begin to address this issue; that we communicate more effectively about the value of the network and the service it provides.”

Sue Robinson, franchised director at the Retail Motor Industry Federation, said dealers make significant investments in assets and training and in many cases offer to match the price of a like-for-like service at an independent garage.

“We have to raise the profile, dispel the myth,” Robinson added.

The meeting raised the question of whether the franchised sector and the trade bodies involved in it do enough to promote the excellent main dealer experience.

The industry is fixated on internally measuring customer satisfaction, which could give rise to some very positive messages if these measurements were shared publicly.

Marketing focus tends to be primarily on selling the cars, not on how a dealer’s aftersales and customer service experience can differ to that of an independent.

If a health-check, valet, recall check, collection/delivery or courtesy car is all part of the service, dealers must do more to let prospective customers know this.

Steve Fowler, editor of WhatCar?, pointed out that dealers and man-ufacturers are typically doing things the same way today as they did 30 years ago.

Consumers, particularly the young people who will be car buyers in the years ahead, have changed their expectations.

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