During the last few weeks there has been a good deal of media attention given to National Franchise Dealers Association (NFDA) Trusted Dealers ‘10 Points of Difference’ for used car sales operations: http://www.trusteddealers.co.uk/10-points#point-9 which is gaining support across the dealership world ahead of a potential backing of the code by Which? (previously known as the Consumers’ Association) and Trading Standards.
The 10 points of difference are a great start. To summarise quickly, all franchised dealers that want to be in the Trusted Dealer scheme must prove the following:
1. Nothing to hide: All cars must be background checked to avoid inadvertent trading of cars that have been stolen, involved in serious accidents etc.
2. No nasty surprises: All cars must be bought legitimately and every vehicle is checked to make sure there is no outstanding finance on it. The dealer must own the vehicle the customer is buying off them
3. Every inch. Every car: All cars must be subject to a full mechanical inspection and faults rectified before it is delivered to the customer
4. The clock never lies: No ‘clocking’ of cars will be done. This is effectively theft as it is misrepresentation of the car by giving it a lower mileage than the reality. The result is often that servicing is not done at the right time and serious maintenance changes like cam belt replacement will be done late and put the whole engine at risk
5. Try before you buy: All Trusted Dealers need to offer a proper test drive of the car they are planning to buy
6. Passed with flying colours: All Trusted Dealers will make sure there is a minimum of 3 months MOT on a used car, many offer a full year’s MOT today.
7. Not a care in the world: Trusted Dealers offer a warranty or guarantee with used cars so that if there is a problem shortly after delivery it can be taken back and rectified free of charge
8. Trade in and trade up: Trusted Dealers must welcome part exchange and use that as a contribution to the purchase of your new car.
9. See yourself in it: Every used car from a Trusted Dealer comes with a full professional valet inside and out
10. No need to stretch: Trusted Dealers must offer you finance to purchase your car. All Trusted Dealers must also offer service plans which mean that you can budget your servicing costs monthly or even pay upfront as you purchase your car.
There are no doubts that the NFDA’s Trusted Dealers 10 Points of Difference scheme - if it is promoted well and the consumer is educated to look out for its badge - offers a great benchmark for best practice when selling used cars in the UK.
We liked it so much, we decided to take the concept of standards into our area of specialism – key management in dealerships - and apply them to see what high standards in dealerships’ handling of customer keys might look like.
We came up with the following, which we believe constitutes Best Practice Key Security:
1. Remove all personal keys and give them back to the customer before taking your vehicle keys
2. Label your key (ideally with your name and registration) so that it can be found if misplaced
3. Replace your key free of charge if we lose it
4. Store your keys in a secure cabinet whilst not in use
5. Keep a secure audit trail of when and who used your key whilst with us
6. Never keep your key with your vehicle unless someone is working on it
7. Only allow authorised users to access to your keys
8. Offer the ability to review the usage of your keys on request, in a fast and simple-to-understand way
9. Return your key and vehicle to you in a timely manner
10. Treat your key as if it was one of our own.
Once we had drawn up this 10 Point Plan for Best Practice in Key Management we were acutely conscious that for it to work we would have to persuade dealers of its value - as many of them may not immediately be able to offer all 10 assurances and might need to invest in training and equipment to achieve it. We also knew we needed a system for monitoring standards, awarding certificates and stripping dealerships of these certificates if they failed regular audits of their key management standards and policies.
In short, we realised fairly quickly that the sort of charter mark we were looking to launch only works if it is backed, enforced and marketed by a relevant standards body with a strong following just as the Trusted Dealers scheme is by the NFDA.
Do you think key management should have its own Standards Charter? Would conformity to an agreed set of principles and processes help your dealership to stand out from the crowd? Please feel free to post your comments – if there’s a positive reaction, we will set up and promote an official Key Standards Charter on your behalf. At the very least, what this exercise illustrates is that every interface with the customer in a dealership is valuable. Procedures and standards for all of these interactions need to be set with a view to meeting or exceeding customer expectations. And they need to be backed by an organisation the customer can place their faith and trust in.
That is why I was really encouraged to read in MTN a couple of weeks ago about how Jaguar dealers have come out top of the JD Powers Dealer Satisfaction Survey for the second year running: http://motortradenews.com/mtnb/050/#4/z , largely because they understand as Jeremy Hicks, Jaguar Land Rover UK MD said that their “dealer network is the most important point of contact we have with our customers”. The Survey recognises dealers for good service including friendly and efficient and value for money service. Dealers that want to sell more and hold onto more after-sales business could do a lot worse than drawing up and living buy a standards charter of their own for all aspects of interaction with customers.
We believe setting standards, living by them and communicating them effectively to staff and customers alike, is the bedrock of any customer service improvement drive in dealerships. More power to NFDA for its Trusted Dealers scheme. Let’s hope used car dealers nationwide continue to sign up and promote it.
We will return to many of these themes in more detail in future posts so please sign up for our blog or check back to this site or www.etagsolutions.com for the latest thoughts and tips on finding routes to increased profitability.