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Employees must come first for dealers to achieve high levels of customer care

To achieve the highest levels of customer care, employees must be a dealership’s first priority, according to Lifestyle Europe HR manager Helen Farrow.

As revelations go, this is unlikely to stop line managers in their tracks; it is after all, a well repeated mantra. The difference, however, is at Sussex, Surrey and Kent-based Lifestyle Europe, this policy is being actively pursued and it is working.

Farrow believes that being the HR manager, she was originally given caretaking duties of the CRM team 18-months ago but has never handed back the reigns, means she applies a completely different mindset. She will reveal how this almost ‘back-to-front’ approach is netting impressive results when she speaks at AM’s Aftersales Conference at Crowne Plaza, Heythrop Park, Oxon on 8 April.

She said: “It is an absolute classic – ‘look after your staff and they will look after your customers’ but I think businesses are more likely to pay lip service to this approach than find a way to make it a reality. It’s not that we set out on a predetermined course with this policy in mind but now I look back at how we came to be in the position we are in, it is strikingly apparent that our ‘inside-out’ approach is the cornerstone of our success.”

Under Farrow’s guidance, the team has grown by five people in the past 12-months, upped its outbound call volume by 22% and increased service bookings by 19%. Consisting of a mix of part and full-time employees, the CRM team is made up of eight people equating to six full-time staff who are on target to make 1,500 calls a month this year with a conversion rate which regularly achieves between 45-50% and never dips below one in three.

Following a lack of direction, Farrow was asked to oversee the CRM team for a few months ‘to get them back on track’. Instead, Farrow’s natural instinct as an HR manager, to focus on the team itself, proved so successful she now combines both roles.

She added: “I spend at least three days a week working in the call centre itself, I may be undertaking HR tasks but I am there and I mentor throughout the day. I believe it’s all about communication and we meet officially once a month when we sit down together, have lunch and discuss issues, challenges, successes and what we can do to improve our service. I am completely open with them about the business as a whole from performance figures to the part we have to play in generating revenue. If managers engage their employees – openly and genuinely, they will engage the customers and the cycle becomes self-fulfilling which our approach has proved.”

Being the group’s HR manager has other benefits, for example, Farrow has an overview of staffing levels throughout the aftersales departments and can identify quickly where there may be challenges and redirect the CRM team accordingly. It has also led to some other very surprising results.

A new direct dial system meant the group switchboard operation based out of Tunbridge Wells and requiring additional support during busy periods did not necessitate another full time employee. The appointment was made to incorporate a backup switchboard operator based in the CRM who also works within the team contacting all the ‘missed opportunities’ – those customers who for one reason or another have not been converted, has increased take-up significantly and is a main contributor to the team regularly achieving one in two conversion rates.

“I think I am probably the only HR manager in automotive retail who heads up the CRM team,” Farrow commented. “But now I would never give it up and as a group, we would never operate it any other way.”

Tickets are available to dealers and manufacturers, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Nicola Baxter on 01733 468289, email or visit

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