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Dealer profile: Essex Auto Group

It is clear that as a relatively small regional business Essex Auto Group has not been afraid of investment.

It developed its own dealer management system, and employs two full-time programmers to make continual improvements to its IT systems.

It has a support centre next door to its bodyshop in which it makes and receives customer calls for all its sites, including Motability and fleets through 1Link, with missed calls in busy periods picked up automatically by telephone overflow service Armchair.

The centre also handles the group’s marketing, under the leadership of marketing director Matt Brown, who joined in 2008 from online marketer Global Beach.

Support centre operatives can view an amber alert system to monitor deferred maintenance work for follow-up.

The centre also handles the group’s trade parts sales to independent motor traders, and has added a live chat facility to the group’s website, which now is the channel of choice for 60% of online enquiries.

Brown tracks and measures all aspects of the group’s marketing and said levels of engagement are increasing, as are conversion rates.

“The trick is to show people there is more to go at if we can convert more of what we’ve got already,” said Brown.

“Every lead generated has to be followed up and optimised. There’s no hiding place for staff.”

It’s a signal of the robust management, processes and systems driving the business, but these get respect from the staff, many of whom have been with the business for years.

"Maskell recognises that longevity and loyalty from employees is essential for growth, and encourages that with rewards and recognition.

Maskell concludes: “I’m a tough boss, I’m demanding and expect people to deliver, but I believe you get what you earn as a boss by driving people.”

'Ford is a great franchise, together we can make it better'

Philip Maskell feels driven to improve the fortunes of his fellow franchised dealers.

From 2004 to 2007 he was the founding chairman of the Retail Automotive Alliance, a joint venture of 22 regional Ford dealer groups designed to pool their combined buying power to negotiate better rates on key supplies such as oil, remarketing and IT systems.

Members make annual savings of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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