Aftersales departments will fail to achieve their full potential in franchised dealerships until they gain more support from the rest of the business and manufacturers.
Many aftersales managers also feel they do not have the skills or resources to make a significant difference to the current levels of performance, with the lack of time to bring in changes a common complaint in a survey by service plan provider Emac looking at the challenges in 2011 for service departments.
One aftersales manager said: “We continue to be the Cinderella operation within our business. We could do with more support/resources to help us develop the business.
“Manufacturer support on standards and technical capabilities is welcome, but we need help to dev-elop the marketing of aftersales. It receives nothing like the attention that sales enjoys.”
Predictably, with the slowdown in new car sales signalling a reduction in workshop activity, more than 90% of respondents said there was an increase in focus on their area.
This had led to an improvement in margins between 2009 and 2010 – and an increase in higher margin retail work over warranty work. But the survey revealed that without strong new car sales, aftersales departments appear to struggle to create their own activity, with all respondents saying they needed more support; 57% believing aftersales needed “significantly more focus” this year.
There was a call for greater, targeted manufacturer support, with a focus on aftersales programmes improving occupancy and productivity.
The Emac report says: “Aftersales will need help if the focus on marketing is not to fall at simply database cleansing.
“Focus on this area of business appears too often to be ‘under the wire’. A move to place performance front and centre, as per new/used car sales may have a positive impact. At the same time it should be recognised that such a change is likely to be a very significant cultural step for a business area that operates out of the spotlight.”
The survey’s conclusions are:
- There must be greater emphasis on the sales in aftersales
- The wider business must support the aftersales proposition in its marketing, especially at the point of car sale and online
- Aftersales must move to create a more sales-focused culture
- Databases and marketing must be developed.
Angela Barrow, Emac managing director, said: “It’s clear there will be an increased focus on aftersales to increase contribution to the bottom line. Growing aftersales in the current trading environment will not be easy. Success will require effective change management and support business-wide. What is clear is that increasingly aftersales managers are up for the challenge.”
The Emac survey was carried out between November 2010 and January 2011 and 140 aftersales managers in franchised businesses responded.
Many of the key points raised by the survey will be addressed at the AM Aftersales Conference on April 6 at the Quadrangle Con-ference Centre, Oxford. Details at www.aftersalesconference.co.uk
What the dealers said on the survey
“The pressure on aftersales has certainly increased. We are well aware of our local competitors and will price-match if required, but we know that a fall in new car sales is the biggest threat.”
“Time is one of our biggest challenges. There is an element of feast and famine about aftersales and getting the right staff at the right time is almost a full-time job in itself.”
“In 2010, we really stepped up our activities and improved results. Training and wider cross-functional training really made a
"We have broken down some of those sales/aftersales barriers. Sales help us by selling service plans and we help sales by ensuring, as far as possible, that they know past customers are coming in for a service so that they can maintain customer contact.”
“We are technically good at what we do, and we are genuinely good at aftersales and customer care. However, we are not experts at sales and marketing, and this is becoming increasingly important. These are skills we have to develop.”