Here are the six women in their team – Jo Thomas, Sales Controller, Mags Button, Sales Executive, Abby Pedersen, Sales Admin, Amy Crothers, Service Manager, Natalie Edwards, Service Advisor and Sarah Parsons, Receptionist.
Now we are great fans of Nissan in Japan with their concierge and creche services to enhance the car shopping experience for women but we think this MIGHT well be the first instance of a female takeover in a UK showroom anywhere…
Pebley Beach is an award-winning and FOXY Lady Approved car dealership in Swindon.
It is also a Suzuki dealership where Club members in the Swindon area can claim exclusive model discounts.
So we wanted to know more about the Pebley Beach award winning business model and asked their Managing Director, Dom Threlfall, to tell us what they are doing that clearly many others aren’t.
This sentiment is neatly summed up in Dom’s quote.
“I believe great customer service is the key to business success – whatever business you’re in”
Top Ten Customer Service Takeaways
And so do we Dom, hence FOXY’s TOP TEN small and simple but spot on customer service favourites that Pebley Beach put into action and explain why they are on our FOXY Lady Approved list ahead of others…
1/ Reserved parking bays near the main entrance for customers with an appointment
2/ Expecting staff to walk customers back to their car
3/ Using a piece of tape to remind our technicians where the car seat was positioned.
“We’ve had married couples asking us to keep the tape in place, so that they know how far to put the seat back or forward for their partners!”
4/ Welcoming MoT and car servicing reminders.
5/ Simple online booking systems to free up staff to deliver personal customer service.
6/ The ability to watch technicians work on your car via a smartphone (a Hyundai service which Dom hopes will be rolled out nationally).
7/ A strategy to identify and recruit rising stars as apprentices, training them with a view to the future. Pebley Beach has won Awards for this approach as have many of their long standing staff as a result of this.
8/ Recognition that Pebley Beach is a community business requiring ethical behaviour at all times, manifesting this in upright and transparent customer dealings. The red and yellow football card photo above is a good example of this – it’s sarcasm that gets yellow and red cards at Pebley Beach…
10/ Finally customers are encouraged to leave a voice mail message for Dom if he’s not in the business at the time. This is an excellent way to head off customer concerns that might otherwise escalate.
Other customer service initiatives
In recognition of his ability to convert good ideas into measurable actions Suzuki has sponsored Dom to attend the NADA Expo, the annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association where US dealers come together to compare the latest services and developments. And it’s said that whatever is hitting the spot in the US it will soon do so in the UK.
Certainly that is true about the female friendly car dealership business model askpatty.com that launched at the same time as FOXY in the UK. And where the number of women drivers exceeded the number of male ones ahead of this happening in the UK.
“No-one does customer service like the Americans,” said Dom “so I was looking for great ideas that I can adopt in the UK.
“But best practice doesn’t just come from within the industry. Every time I’m at a restaurant, book into a hotel, or even order a pizza I’ll replicate anything that’s given me a great customer experience.”
Dom is also in demand as a business speaker and shared a platform at the Customer Service Summit in April 2016 with Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service; Linda Moir, former director of In Flight Services, Virgin Atlantic; Catherine Hutt, principal consultant (automotive) at Frost & Sullivan; and Captain Gary Barrow of King’s Royal Hussars, giving delegates an unusual insight into how the Army tackles this topic.
We’ll be returning to Pebley Beach later in the year to see what new NADA initiatives Dom might adopt and to measure the success of our FOXY Lady Approved services in terms of increased numbers of female customers. They are usually wary women who spot that Pebley Beach is the first dealership in Swindon to meet our standards ie our female car buying choice.
And as you can see from Dom’s approach, he is leading the car dealer field in Wiltshire by recognising that it isn’t just women who expect more from garages and car showrooms – men are equally delighted when the quality customer service bar is raised.
The challenge for other car dealerships is clear – they need to think as creatively about their own customer services, not just follow Pebley Beach’s examples.
“The greater the competition, the higher the customer service standard gets.”
says I, welcoming this challenge as ever.
FOR MORE INFORMATION…
See Dom at the Swindon Business Show demonstrating Pebley Beach systems efficiencies as a means of increasing the time available for staff to maintain the (often missing elsewhere) personal touch.
In its otherwise brilliant trade magazine for the automotive industry, my attention was halted by this all male photograph in the February issue of Car Dealer.
Apparently these are the 14 white men who are the Automotive Influencers otherwise described as ‘the people who shape the car market’ with a view to 2016.
Let’s be clear about this. These are said to be the guys who are the ultimate influencers of last year’s car sales of approximately 2.5 million brand new cars and 7 million used cars?
Of which 80% of these sales are said to be ‘influenced’ by women ie 2 million brand new cars alone…
But who clearly aren’t represented at the top of the industry? So there you have it – visual evidence of the gender divide.
The men who tell women what they can have and should buy. Versus the women who are telling the industry, time and time again, that they aren’t as happy as they could be with the cars on offer (in terms of the shopping experience as in cars, manufacturer communications, dealer service levels and so on).
Now why is it that the women aren’t happy enough? I know because they tell me and I read surveys about this of course. But could it be that the men at the top aren’t listening or understanding that men and women are different at car shopping time and that many women want MORE than is on offer? Don’t their wives tell them this?
And why is it that too many ambitious women and talented young females are choosing other industries for their careers, not ours? It’s because they can’t see ANY place in our future, looking at photographs like this one. Not one out of 14… why should they be expected to battle against these odds when they don’t have to in other industries?
Help make the car industry more female friendly
Come on Car Dealer. Let’s have women on your strategic agenda with a view to the future. You are a powerful influencer within the industry after all. Yes it’s good to see Sophie back in Editorial but you also need a Female SUIT. Let’s have tomorrow’s female role models in next year’s Influencers and a regular feature in between so we’re not forgotten. Not just women as a token sideshow at your next dealer event? That isn’t good enough.
Let’s listen to more of what needs to be an ongoing business debate about WHO the customer is and WHAT they want rather than who of the Top White Men drinks what brand of coffee or listens to what sort of music in their private life.
The Female Business Case
Having said all this, there are many inspiring male leaders in genuinely female friendly automotive Groups who are actively advancing the Female Business Case, with role models in their Board waiting rooms as part of their strategic agenda. For this has to start at the top, not the bottom of an organisation where most of the women work.
It would be SO good to see more of this inevitable and desirable gender change, to influence other businesses with a view to a better and more profitable future. To encourage aspirational women to speak their mind, unshackled by corporate cultures that equate equality to treating men and women the same as customers.
Yes, of course men and women are equal when it comes to employment issues but this is the MOST important bit, we are not the same when it comes to getting things right for us as customers or when it comes to attracting us as employees for that matter.
“Please could you keep your maudlin thoughts to yourself about the UK economy? Either we’re affected by a struggling EU or we aren’t. According to George we aren’t, so let’s all sing from the same hymn sheet and be upbeat about things. Regardless of any future non-association with the EU. And all the trading barriers this may then entail…
“I understand that we are being softened up for a tough Election ahead and of course Rochester is listening. After all this is a great opportunity to reassure us all that the UK economy is in safer hands with the Tories than it would be with an alternative UKIP, Labour or SNP ‘perm any combination’ Government next year.
“I’ll go with that logic….
“But optimism matters a lot to me, running a small business, because when we launched our female friendly garage network in 2008 it nearly had a very short business life… I had picked the 8th of August as our ‘opening date’ because this was supposed to be a truly auspicious Chinese date. Apart from in 2008. Within days or a month at the most we were all feeling the chilling effect (yes even in August) of the recession that was to clobber the UK garage industry for some 5 years.
“As ever, those that know about adversity also know that it usually comes with opportunities for the brave. So some garages were the First Movers and have done well out of us since. The Ostriches buried their head in the sand as ever and the Takers took whatever we gave for free… for as long as we were daft enough to offer it.
“Two months ago we launched our new FOXY Lady Approved female friendly car dealer network (for used and new car sales) and this is where we are concentrating our recruitment efforts now.
“So we don’t need or agree with your economic pessimism David because we know that women buy half the new cars sold in the UK and influence as many as 80%. That’s HUGE business for the UK.
“This makes us THE gender spenders, who are to be encouraged surely, not deterred from car shopping to shore up such a vital industry.
“And because many distrust car dealers, we exist to give women the reassurance they need and so they know they have a female choice.
“So no more negativity please David. And be sure to tell Samantha she has a female friendly car shopping choice in future.”
All the very best (although it’s not looking good) for Rochester on Thursday…