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Lookers chief Andy Bruce: ‘The market has more growth in it’

JB: Sooner or later, an individual will come into a showroom and meet a salesperson. How do you ensure the customer does not have to repeat what they told the business development centre, but the conversation continues?

NM: The conversion rate is measured from enquiry toappointment in the branch and then sale. So we’re able to compare the conversion rates by dealership and see whether the centre is allocating the appointments to people who ensure it’s a joined-up process.

All of the customers are receiving surveys from us whether they buy or not, so if they say “it was great until you handed me through to the sales exec in the branch, because they didn’t seem to know anything about me”, we get the feedback.

Between the surveys and the conversion rates, we have a good idea whether enquiries are being handled correctly in the branches.

The website will also help boost our organic search ratings because Google’s algorithms are much more based now around the organic functionality on the website. If that is good and if there’s good strong links to social media then you’re likely to get good organic search results.

JB: How do you ensure your IT function, not just your website, is working right, that you don’t have different databases across businesses, particularly acquired businesses, that lead to inefficiency, repetition or communication drop-outs?

AB: Our goal is to allow the customer to type their data in once and then, wherever or however they engage with us, we know who they are, what they’ve looked at and what they’ve spent so far with Lookers.

Achieving this is one of the biggest strategic challenges that the industry faces.

IT is now at the centre of every retail business, and not just car retailing. We’ve appointed somebody who designed Carphone Warehouse’s retail systems as business transformation director and it’s his job to make sure this goal is achieved.

We’re looking at this as a three-year project, but his intention is that we will see elements of this development – the quick wins – being delivered in the next 12 months.

JB: Is it possible for you to tailor your offering to every customer individually, from establishing the car they need from their driving style (e.g. being heavy on the brakes), annual mileage and lifestyle and then an aftersales package based on a bespoke contact plan rather than a rigid service plan?

NM: It’s not possible now, but it’s where it’s heading. The database we want to create will be built around one very comprehensive, very sophisticated, unique record for each customer. It will record a history of contacts, transactions and vehicle history that includes everything. The solutions we’re looking at also gather information from social media about each customer.

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