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How Knights found the real value of aftersales revival

Knights North Staffordshire faced a major problem soon after a big investment to move its flagship BMW/Mini dealership to a retail park at Stoke-on-Trent.

The recession posed a financial threat to Knights and positive action was needed, so there was pressure on staff in aftersales to increase revenue as registrations of new BMWs and Minis declined.

Action taken by the senior management led to a 7% rise in retail service work, impressive enough for Knights to win the ‘excellence in customer service’ category at the AM Awards.

The award judges said that critical to their decision was mystery shopping by AM Awards’ auditor MSX International. It showed employees made training aspirations a reality that pleased and retained customers.

Knights operates franchised BMW and Mini dealerships in Stoke and Stafford, and the award was for its Stoke aftersales department.

This was part of a dealership that moved from small premises to a greenfield development.

Even if the economy had stayed buoyant, employees would have needed to help customers adapt to the size of the dealership, which Knights says made a warm atmosphere hard to create at first.

Aftersales’ objectives

The management put ‘customer first’ at the core of its strategy while tracking a number of objectives for aftersales. The approach was led by greater focus on the department to raise customers’ experience.

Equally important was a determination to ensure that Knights’ activities were in step with the disciplines of the BMW/Mini cust-omer satisfaction programme.

The aftersales team had to ensure all that their actions were in line with the BMW/Mini ‘customer promise’, consistently supported by robust processes. The objectives were to win business while ach-ieving Knights’ financial objectives.

MSX said its auditor’s mystery shopper calls found that Knights offered ‘the whole package’ in an obviously comprehensive way with staff focused on the need for consistently high-quality care.

The judges said Knights was aware of the need for processes to achieve the best result for the business and the customer, rather than staff merely going through a list of processes for their own sake.

Knights’ ‘customer first’ strategy, implemented in 2010, made an immediate impact.

MSX said Knights involved all staff in the need for improvements and how they could be achieved. The objective was to exceed cust-omers’ expectations in an increasingly difficult economic climate.

Lifting the atmosphere

Knights used a specialist company to assess its needs and to provide strategic and tactical recommendations.

Aftersales staff were told that every customer must feel valued. To make this possible it was necessary for customer service to be seen as a series of mini events.

Every promise made by an adviser to a customer had to be delivered in full, the team was told. Managers focused on critical reas-oning with their aftersales teams and inter-connecting departments. Dealership staff heard what cust-omers said from research and mystery shop information and were encouraged to promote new ideas and excellence in service. Directors awarded prizes weekly to members of staff who performed the best – nominations were made by colleagues and customers.

Knights found this approach led to continuous improvements bec-ause staff were motivated to feel part of the ‘customer first’ process. At the first workshop everyone working in aftersales was able to complete their own personal development action plan to help underpin consistency.

Each was provided with a new job description reflecting the ‘customer first’ principles.

This allowed managers to daily identify progress and the quality of service, providing a way of gathering information for man-agement reporting. Knights uses mystery shopping calls, a call monitoring system and reviews of personal development plans. It also provides personal coaching.

Regular contact with customers

Felix Serrano, MSX International UK managing director, said dealers should keep in contact with customers regularly, not just when there was something to sell.

“Dealers should add value, perhaps by advising customers of new regulations that affect them,” he said. “Customers do not want to spend money on aftersales, which makes it important to make everything as convenient as possible. The objective must be to differentiate from other dealers.”

David Bale, MSX International UK warranty and engineering project manager, said customer excellence was based on ensuring people were happy when they left a dealership.

“They are then more likely to come back and also tell friends about the business,” he said. “Someone at the dealership should make a follow-up phone call so the buyer does not go elsewhere.”

Bale said dealers should have some knowledge of a customer’s lifestyle: “This may provide an opportunity to sell a guard for the car’s cabin if they own a dog or items legally required if they are going to drive in mainland Europe.”

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  • APC1953 - 13/09/2012 16:01

    All pretty basic stuff nothing ground breaking and what can be called outside in retailing doesn't seem to be addressed.

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