JB: How long will it be before you can say you have a contact plan for each individual customer?
NM: I don’t know the answer to that. We haven’t actually got the data and it’s not collected in a useable format, but we’ll be able to do that within three years.
Then we’ll ask how we can use the data much more intelligently to make the communication and the products and services that we offer bespoke.
Customers expect it; they are frustrated they have bought four cars from us, that they’ve been on the website and filled in some finance quotations, they might have even made an enquiry, spoken to us two or three times and then they walk into the showroom and somebody still says “how can I help you today?”.
The by-product of a joined-up database will be we’re able to talk to customers in a much more intelligent way about stuff they’ll be interested in and that will be conducive towards them continuing to buy from us.
JB: Accepting that consumers are visiting fewer showrooms to shop for their next car, have you changed the way your sales staff approach customers?
NM: It’s changing and we’re in the middle of the transition. The typical sales exec is changing from the old school, big hitter that used a lot of sharp phrases and words and is clever and flamboyant to somebody who’s new to the industry that is enthusiastic, responsive, happy to build technical expertise in the products and just wants to help the customer.
JB: What is it about John Lewis that fascinates the retail motor trade as a role model?
AB: It has convinced everybody that they are the role models for customer service. Whether that’s just through sheer weight of its repeating it or it’s actually founded in fact, it’s hard to know. It’s probably a bit of both.
We got Andrew McMillan (John Lewis’s former head of customer service and a former AM columnist) to facilitate the design of our customer engagement programme and it’s largely reinventing some of what is common sense.
A team of about eight people came together, including myself, and others of the right mindset.
We started out believing that the key to improving customer satisfaction would be to dream up cleverer ways of processing people in the business, so we need to be smarter and think up a new way of getting somebody to book a service. But it became clear that it’s actually a lot less about process and a lot more about the human touch.
Our behaviour is, in turn, influenced by how happy the staff are to work here.
A great deal of our ‘customers for life’ strategy is based on how do we have the happiest, most engaged, committed work force, in the knowledge that it will reflect itself in the customer experience.