“As long as you fundamentally believe the internet cannot deliver those three things, we have a franchised retail business,” Gupta said.
But what of Marshall’s staff? Numerous dealers cite John Lewis as the epitome of a customer-focused, rather than sales-focused business.
Gupta is among them. And he knows the challenge is considerable and that it affects the way staff are treated, recruited, trained, rewarded and paid.
It is a cornerstone of the next five years or ‘phase two’ of the business plan.
Newly appointed sales managers, service managers and business manager are assessed on their people management skills, their working values – and if they can read a set of accounts – before they start working for Marshall.
“I’m looking for positive attitude. Do they display integrity, do they have a focus on customer value, do they really recognise that people are at the heart of the success of the organisation? Are they innovative, are they creative?”
Gupta said he was satisfied with his “top 100” senior managers, but there are 375 other managers who “manage the troops” – the remainder of those in the total 2,100 headcount.
And the troops are the most important since they are customer facing.
“If a salesperson looks like an unmade bed, we rely on our sales managers to take them to task. If a service adviser is talking to a customer rudely and not building a relationship, we expect our service managers to coach them.
“The most important level in our business is our line managers.”
Marshall has invested in its own training academy, it has two full-time trainers and line management assessments are now mandatory to address what Gupta calls the “rubbish” record of training in the sector. All new starters, wherever they are based in the business, have a one-day induction at Cambridge headquarters, they meet one of the directors, they are shown around the business and they are told what their “emotional contract” is with our business.
Training, training and more training
Service advisers and salespeople are put on a mandatory one-week residential course, no matter how long they have worked in the sector, and are trained on customer handling skills, relationship building, the benefits of service plans and other products of benefit to customers.
But is Marshall generating leaders or regiments of foot soldiers?