So, with confidence in the product launches, centre branding and appearance, what are the other pieces to the jigsaw? To Roberts, it’s the sales effectiveness of staff and resultant customer satisfaction. The Block Exemption Regulation will largely go unnoticed by Vauxhall dealers, Roberts believed, despite the powers it gives manufacturers, but he said Vauxhall was looking to have dedicated brand sales staff in its dealerships.
“We want customers to have the best experience in our showrooms.
“Product knowledge should be a matter of necessity – and pride – for the salesperson. Recruiting for this attitude is tough, but we are trying.”
The training curriculum has been strengthened under Roberts’ watch.
He has formal links with the Institute of the Motor Industry and Vauxhall has worked with it to sharpen the focus in particular on this issue.
For managers, core competencies of leadership, coaching, recruitment skills, performance reviews, and appraisals are aligned to the IMI framework for all sales, service and parts managers.
Each person is assessed and rather than making everyone do the same amount of training, Vauxhall now addresses the knowledge gaps in each individual.
For sales managers and upwards, Vauxhall is looking to train up to level seven of the IMI Automotive Management Accreditation.
“This will strengthen the performance of the network because what often happens is that we do a lot of training with customer-facing staff, but the line management don’t always have the skills to continue the coaching element.”
The focus on staff well-being has been recognised. In March, it was accredited as one of ‘Britain’s Top Employers’, coming in the top 10 for the second year running. In the same month, Vauxhall was shortlisted for ‘best large organisation: long-term placements’ at the National Council for Work Experience Awards.
Now having looked at the combination of factors that will improve Vauxhall’s position in the marketplace to 2016 – new CI, training, technology, product, brand awareness – Roberts acknowledges not all the weaknesses lie with dealers.
Asked what was a primary area for the brand that needed addressing when he was one of its dealers, Roberts said: “The complexity in any interaction between us – sales programmes, audit processing, management accounts, customer satisfaction: too much communication and too much detail.
“If we could simplify that, we would stop taking time out of people’s working lives, we would make the franchise easier to understand and therefore easier to operate.”
And now he’s on the other side of the fence? “We definitely want to improve in those areas.”