Tag Archives: female friendly

FOXY Lady Drivers Club identifies and works with the best and female friendly garages and car dealerships nationwide across the UK.

Great customer service translates into business success

Business of the Year, Wiltshire Business Awards
Business of the Year, Wiltshire Business Awards
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

Sarcasm gets a yellow and sometimes red card at Pebley Beach
Sarcasm gets a yellow and sometimes red card at Pebley Beach

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…

9/ Managing an Aftersales (aka garage services) Charter so customers know what they can expect from 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.
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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.

FOXY

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.

Here’s the Pebley Beach website.

Here are the exclusive Suzuki car deals for Club members.

And if you’d like to join the Club to enjoy services like preferential car insurance rates for women and such like, here’s how you can.

Why Women Drivers Matter

mary_barra_changeOn International Women’s Day one’s thoughts can happily turn to our own gender, hopefully without someone feeling the need to tell me there’s no International Men’s Day.

Well there mightn’t be but so what? If I want to write about women, celebrate feminism, praise the achievements of my gender, the new Women’s Equality Party and/or remind everyone why women matter then so be it.

Men have been patting themselves on their backs for years and that’s fine by me. But today it’s our turn and sadly the gender news in the motor industry isn’t as self congratulatory as it might look to those that don’t know how to scratch the surface here.

But let’s take this step by step…

1) The economic importance of women drivers

As you know, my blog is about women and motoring (by and large) so you can expect me to confine my comments to this area. So it’s worth reminding ourselves that the number of women drivers on UK roads will soon overtake that of men on our roads. So that’s close to 50% of all car tax, insurance and fuel payments/taxation straight away. We were at 47% of license holders last year for your information…

Then let’s add in the fact that women buy about half of all ‘new’ cars in their own right, influencing as many as 80% of all cars bought*. By influence, that’s when ‘he’ chooses the car but says to the salesman ‘that’s what I want but my wife/partner needs to approve this before I pay’. In the US they say this female influence accounts for as many as 90% of car sales. And some car dealers put this at 100%, based on evident experience (and a wicked sense of down-trodden humour I suspect).

* estimated as two million brand new cars and some five million used cars.

2) The female motoring multiplier effect

The point of this massive consumer motoring influence is that this also represents jobs in manufacturing plants, jobs in UK car dealerships, in garages and automotive suppliers – as well as the spin off effect of the jobs created to serve the expenditure from these jobs and so on. So what women buy (or not?) influences jobs and the businesses that do best and so on.

At FOXY Lady Drivers Club we feel the female shopping effect particularly strongly when it comes to buying garage services today. Like the many cars women are increasingly buying online (rather than going to unfriendly garages/car dealerships) an increasing number of busy females are shopping for MOT’s, car servicing and both mechanical & bodywork repairs online, often at night, for the family fleet. Even if those women then delegate the test drive and/or garage visit to a male (that’s another story for another blog…).

3) Is our fantastic motor industry as good as it could be?

Let’s look at the key statistics taken from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) excellent Facts Guide (2015).

+ The UK automotive industry turnover was a cool £69.5 billion in 2015
+ There are more than 32 million cars on our roads
+ More than 1.5 million cars were built in the UK in 2014
+ 2.47 million new cars were first registered in 2014
+ Nearly 800,000 individuals are employed in the UK automotive industry
+ 7 out of 10 F1 teams are based in the UK
+ 80% of the world’s largest automotive suppliers are based in the UK

Impressive figures for sure but let’s remember – this is the industry that we women are paying our fair share towards and much as I’d love to carry on crowing about it, I can’t because it doesn’t represent our female needs. But it should.

In a nutshell this industry needs to be a lot more female friendly than it is. Too many women prefer visiting dentists than garages. Recent research** suggests 90% of a Mumsnet and Reevoo female sample would not go car shopping without a man and women are three times more likely to report an ‘awful’ than ‘excellent’ experience in a dealership.

How can this be good enough for such important customers I have to ask?

**See Different Spin research.

Don’t you think we women deserve better than this guys, when you see why we should matter so much more to you?

4) The missing female industry talent

Whilst it’s International Women’s Day and a chance to celebrate our female influence in the automotive industry I’m sad to end this blog on a negative note, although this can become a future positive given genuine intent.

In a recent film project involving ITN, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) suggests that a woeful 2% of jobs in this industry are occupied by women. I was horrified and have questioned this. Can it possibly be so low?

Accurate or not, diversity needs to be a top level strategic Board agenda objective and reported on annually by both the SMMT and the RMI (Retail Motor Industry Federation) about their respective memberships. We should surely benchmark best gender practice wherever we find it, to encourage the many laggards here to get their act together, once and for all, to represent female customers (and future employees) in the Boardroom. Only then will the ambitious female talent pipeline have somewhere appealing to head for in this industry rather than the many more female friendly career destinations we compete with.

5) Quotas are needed in the motor industry

I suggest we measure this gender outcome in future International Women’s Days to come. Quite frankly I’m not interested in Lord Davies’ token 25% gender targets now. We’re too far behind to follow his footsteps gently. We need an urgent and determined stride towards the only gender metric that really matters – 50:50. And we’re SO far away from this goal in the UK automotive industry that I can’t see us getting there without QUOTAS.

If I’m wrong, and I’d love to be, pray tell me how come waiting for the female creme de la creme to rise to the top of the automotive industry naturally hasn’t happened to date? And why it would do in future without benchmark quotas to meet? It certainly isn’t because we aren’t good enough.

If you are against quotas (as I was originally) please work out how long it’ll take to be fair to female employees and customers if we don’t impose female quotas? But don’t tell me you would only want to be chosen ‘for being the best’ because you aren’t even in the final selection process as is…

How can 2% of jobs allocated to women in any industry be fair enough or suggest that any women who were chosen in a future quota aren’t good enough (or even the best) to too many male Board members who clearly don’t want any sitting at their top table?

As I see it, the time is right for gender quotas in the automotive industry and not just in the UK one either. I don’t see the industry has a choice unless women continue to let it get away with this any longer.

By all means tell me what you think via Twitter @FOXYSteph or info@foxyladydrivers.com.

And if any automotive businesses would like my help to get on the female radar ahead of others, be sure to get in touch with me via my personal website.

FOXY

NB: Our country earns a similar amount of motoring-related tax as it spends on defence, and twice as much as we spend on education it seems. I also wish more women voted hence my support for the Women’s Equality Party.

Female friendly approved UK garages and car dealers

Steph-garage-250I am often asked if our network is different from others that sound impressive but that any Tom, Dick or Harry garage can join. I can honestly answer ‘yes we’re different’.

We have to be different because a bad garage, or one that pretends to be good but is, at best, mediocre, can compromise our motoring safety. Not just for women but also for men I hasten to add which is why we have many male fans and followers because they realise that our standards are higher than most others….

So, when you choose a FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garage you can be sure that it’s been vetted and endorsed by regular female feedback even if we approve a range of garages. As I see it, there’s no point in sending an out of warranty car and its owner into a franchised dealership and paying over the odds if there’s an approved good independent garage alternative. Unless the dealer is competing with them of course…

Our network is run by FOXY Lady Drivers Club’s sister organisation, FOXY Choice. Approved garages pay us an annual subscription to be identified, promoted and monitored as a female friendly garage or car dealer. I am comfortable with this relationship because it’s their money that funds our not for profit club and if the motor industry was as good as it should be, there’d be no need for the Club or for the good guys to have to be seen to out-perform the cowboys.

But there is a need, because, other than MOT’s, this isn’t a licensed industry. One where anyone can tinker with our cars because service and repair mechanics don’t have to be licensed or trained re the latest technology. An industry where she who knows when, where and how much to haggle will usually pay less for a new car than a more trusting neighbour who might venure into a showroom on her innocent own. Where used cars glint as does the salesman’s eye when he sees a gullible prospect to sell a used car to that he knows is about to blow a metaphorical gasket, just outside a mythical warranty he’s sold you. And where you can buy part worn (aka part safe) tyres or buy a car with part worn tyres without your knowledge. Or get your car repaired using cheap and not authentically original car parts. And so on. You get my drift – scratch any surface in this industry and you’ll find standards that aren’t good enough and that let the genuinely good garages and dealers down.

Clearly Rome wasn’t built in a day but FOXY has always started with minimum quality standards. We like to see businesses (garages and dealers) that have invested in training staff, listed on the IMI Professional Register. We also like to see manufacturer approved businesses because, if things go wrong, you can at least escalate problems through the dealer to the manufacturer…

A second standard is the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) schemes run by Motor Codes (backed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders ie SMMT hence the emphasis of franchised dealerships), another me-too scheme run by Trust My Garage (backed by the Retail Motor Industry Federation ie RMIF hence the emphasis on independents more than franchised dealers) or the identical code-scheme operated by the Bosch Car Service network – mainly independents at the high end of the quality spectrum. Amazingly none of these Code of Practice schemes require staff to be licensed but Motor Codes is an Alternative Dispute Resolution services so at least you have somewhere to go if any of their members (and non members) behave badly.

We also expect businesses to sign the FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women services they don’t need’ which is sadly the image that too many women have in their heads. A huge number of women dread the garage experience meaning they don’t go as often as they should for this reason and, in too many cases, delegate the actual MOT, car servicing and often new car test drive to their (male) partner.

Shame on this industry for making us feel intimidated and without a means to fight back. We who are about to outnumber male drivers and who want more for our money. Those who are members of FOXY, can fight back of course, as we will always support them, assuming they’re in the right of course.

My personal bete noir is cleanliness and toilets in garages. These are mainly areas run by men so perhaps cleanliness isn’t as important to them as it would be to us. So where loos are pristine and impressive I heave a huge sigh of relief and want to shout this from the rooftops when inspecting washrooms as customer facilities.

Finally, even garages and dealers with all the quality ratings can be rude. In fact I have encountered some of the rudest men and women in customer facing business roles ever when phoning garages and/or dealers who are clearly oblivious to the way potential customers are treated.

So that’s about it really. A commitment to the FOXY Promise, minimum quality standards, any indication of investment in being better than others in the industry, value for money (I don’t mean cheap here), cleanliness and a warm welcome is what we look for before we award FOXY Lady Approved status. Then minimum supplies of female feedback to make sure they’re keeping their side of the bargain.

PROVISO – Not all FOXY Lady Approved garages tick all these boxes because this has to include a FOXY (as in female) Choice and clearly the more you expect (vehicle collection/courtesy car/italian coffee, WiFi etc) the more the business overheads are but at least you’ll know the garages are doing a good job for women. And that if they get this wrong, they have us to answer to, as per our Terms and Conditions.

My final advice is, don’t buy garage services on price alone. Make sure you know if they are good enough to do the job. Just like a cheap used car, there’ll be a reason for this and it won’t be because the business wants to do you a personal favour.

Trust me – this is the motor industry and it just isn’t good enough yet.

Here’s where to find our FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garages and dealers

Please tell us about your latest garage experiences here

Finally for just £24 you can join FOXY Lady Drivers Club and get a lifetime subscription in 2016 opening the door to cheap car insurance, car deals and VIP garage services we’ve vetted so women (and men in many cases) can trust too.

If you’re a member please tell your friends and help spread the word that women drivers have a female choice.

FOXY
@FOXYTweets

Car Buying Advice from FOXY Lady Drivers’ Club

Does this sound like you?

Sophie Mum-200You fancy a ‘new’ car and you’ve decided that 2016 is the year to do the deal. But it’s complicated. You have a sad-looking car to either sell yourself or trade in, your finances are stretched and you can’t afford to end up with a used car disaster like some people you know did…

You want to look good in it of course so a brand new car would be most impressive but what about the depreciation? What makes are best and how far should you haggle? Maybe you’d be best taking a man with you to sort this out for you?

Clearly you are in need of some down to earth car buying advice before you embark on one of your most expensive shopping sprees for years… so here are a few FOXY DO’S and DON’TS to help you enjoy the experience without needing a man to tell you what to do or pay of course.

FOXY CAR BUYING DO’s

Let’s start with the good news… women are just as good at buying cars as we are holidays and kitchens. It’s just that many of us lack the same insight or confidence so here are a few insider tips to add to your natural shopping ability.

DO plan ahead – if you buy a brand new car in a franchised dealership at the end of a sales quarter (ie March, June, September & December) you’ll likely do better than at other times because of sales and commission targets.

DO stick to ‘must have’ features before you go car shopping like size of car, number of doors, running costs (mpg, insurance, VED), gearbox preference, fuel and any essential features such as satnav and reverse parking sensors…

DO find out about ‘leasing’ a car (often called Personal Car Purchase PCP plans) for a ridiculously low monthly rate compared to using cash or HP. A growing number of motorists do this, it is the modern way, so why not you?

DO know how much your ‘old’ car is worth by using an online valuation service before discussing a trade in value with the dealer (which will be easier to organise/coordinate with a new car arrival).

DO compare car warranties – the longer the better of course. Check if the policy is part of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s Approved Vehicle Warranty Products Code for advice and conciliation in future, should things go wrong.

DO insist on an HPI check or equivalent, before buying any used car (in case of insurance write off/remaining financial debts) and study any previous MOT and servicing history for imminent problems.

DO take a friend with you on a test drive and ask her to fill in a back seat checklist for you whilst you concentrate on driving…

Finally, be sure to check EVERYTHING works (including onboard gizmos) when taking delivery of your new car. If you can’t do this on D (delivery) Day, write this on the handover sheet and be sure to check your car asap.

FOXY CAR BUYING ‘DON’TS’

We’ve all heard about things going seriously wrong with used cars, usually just outside their warranty. So, no matter how shiny the car is, remember that the dealer probably knows more about the credentials of the car you are looking at than you do. So if he’s willing to give you a dramatic discount at whim, it mightn’t be to do with your personal charm or negotiating power…

Even so, women CAN negotiate as good a deal as most men providing they are pre-armed with inside knowledge, a lot of homework and the time to plan this properly. So here are some wise words, based on experience, to hopefully help you buy a great value for money car that’s safe, reliable and economic to run.

DON’T think you can buy a new car in a week. Yes you probably can, but if you cut corners in your selection you’ll likely end up living with a second-rate car for a long time before you can afford to go car shopping again.

DON’T assume that cash will always get you the best brand new car deal. Dealer finance can be VERY attractive – always check this option before rejecting it and see what the finance cancellation clauses are in case you change your mind early on.

DON’T assume you can’t get car finance simply because a manufacturer bank says no. Oh yes you can, when you know where to go.

DON’T admit you’ve fallen in love with a particular car – this weakens your negotiating hand in a showroom.

DON’T buy any car that performs badly in a Top 100 car survey – unless you want to find out why of course.

DON’T delegate the test drive to a partner – if it’s to be YOUR car it must be right for YOU! Check for your visibility and seat comfort above all. Many cars just seem to be designed for taller people – which is fine if you are one, of course…

NB: It’s totally understandable to be nervous about test-driving an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar area with an unfamiliar man!! Why not ask for the car to be delivered to your home instead for 24 hours? Or for a cheerful female member of staff to go with you if preferred?

Finally DON’T put up with second rate customer service at any shopping stage. If the car sales person can’t give you what you want or seems disinterested, ask to talk to the Dealer Principal (that’s the title of the equivalent of a Managing Director in auto speak) and if that fails – walk out and shop elsewhere. Your time is too precious…

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There are personal car shopper services to do all this for you for a fee, if you prefer.

But if you decide to DIY and want your hand holding through the car buying process, you’d do well to join FOXY Lady Drivers Club and benefit from our shared experiences, support services and this sort of independent advice about all motoring-related matters.

And you can always search through our FOXY Lady Approved dealer network for a personal service that won’t dare overcharge, patronise or sell you something you don’t need.’

Or choose one of our new car discount schemes

FOXY

Always choose the best accident repairer

FOXY Lady APPROVED ARC

During its reign (it closed in April 2014) the Office of Fair of Trading told us ‘it’s your choice’ when it comes to choosing an accident repairer for your car. But it never was, really, because at least two of the big insurers charge motorists a supplement of £200 to use one outside their ‘approved’ network.

And because the cost of insurance, the speed of a repair and access to courtesy cars are of the essence, it’s fair to say that the welcome a customer gets, should they ever need to go to an accident repairer, is not at the top of any insurer’s list.

It’s Your Female Choice

So how should a lady driver set about finding one of the best and most female friendly bodyshop repairers for herself when she wants to sort out a small car repair?

One where she feels welcome, sees a female face perhaps, finds clean and comfortable reception facilities and not in some highly off-putting industrial estates…

She wants to sort out the likes of small bodywork, alloy and interior car damage without troubling her insurer, for fear of losing any no claims bonus or seeing her premium rise even when she’s paid her excess.

Our advice is for her to do her homework re quality standards first. To look for the Kitemark in vehicle repairs, staff listed on the IMI’s Professional Register, membership of VBRA perhaps (the only scheme operated by Trading Standards Institute) or a manufacturer approved repairer.

Or join FOXY Lady Drivers Club to tell you where best to go…

Then I’d look for one that is actively courting female business by making women feel welcome (many women are highly sensitive here, wary of being criticised by men). These repairers will likely be listed at the FOXY Lady Approved female friendly bodyshop network.

Finally I’d look for businesses that have won recent accolades in Bodyshop Awards, showing that they are proud of their work and at the top of their game.

2015 British Bodyshop Award winners

Aldershot, Carl Batt – UKAARC Aldershot
Ayrshire, Bridgend Accident Repair Centre, Ayrshire
Bath, Emily Monk, Platinum Accident Repair Centre
Bishop’s Stortford, Rye Street Group
Bristol, ARC Group
Bury St Edmunds, Premier Bodyworks
Crawley, Mick Pini, UKAARC
Croydon, Jemca
Cwmbran Ford
Dagenham, Victor Silva, Fix Auto Dagenham
Dover, Jenkins & Pain*
Grantham, Emma Wilson, Just Car Clinics*
Hartlepool, K & P Anderson Brothers
Heathrow, ARC Coachworks
High Wycombe, Motorbelle,
Hull, Taylors Vehicle Repair Centre
Manchester, Scott Howarth, UKAARC Manchester
Newbury, Adrian Brown – NCR Bodyshops*
Newbury, Woodlands Bodyshop
North of England/Scotland, Pamela McIntyre/Peter Foy, L&I Eaton Group
Northern Ireland, Wrights Accident Repair Centres
South West, Paul Lousteau, Westover Group
Sunderland, Lancaster Wearside Body Repair Centre
Swindon, Just Car Clinic*
Tyne, C&C Coachworks (Tyne Tees Vehicle Repair Group)
UK – Fix Auto
Wakefield, Brian Kendrew – UKAARC Wakefield
West Lothian, AJM Spraying Services
Weybridge, DWS Bodyworks Group

*members of the FOXY Lady Approved female friendly network

Club members can always ask us for specific advice about the best accident repairer to use in their area. It’s what we’re good at remember.

FOXY