The automotive industry is experiencing a wave of transformative changes that are reshaping the way businesses operate. From evolving business models to supply chain challenges and the increasing cost of living, the sector is facing a multitude of factors that demand adaptation and strategic planning. Our Business Development Director, Nick Prat, explores the issues arising from the rapidly changing environment with Tony Jackson, General Manager at Sandicliffe Nottingham. In this article, we share Tony’s views on key drivers of change and their impact on the industry, as well as how his business is navigating these challenges to ensure long-term success.
Staffing Challenges and Technological Advancements
One of the most significant drivers of change in the automotive sector is the staffing challenge. As vehicles become more technologically advanced, the demand for skilled technicians and service advisors is on the rise. With a fast-moving landscape that requires constant training and upskilling, dealerships must prioritise investing in their staff to stay competitive. How has Sandicliffe responded to these challenges?
“Employment and retention of experienced staff have become critical concerns for us. The industry-wide search for service technicians and advisors highlights the need for work-life balance and a shift away from the historically demanding hours driven by manufacturers. We believe ourselves to be progressive and are implementing strategies such as staggered start times to accommodate our employees' needs through which we aim to reduce turnover rates. This is also possible thanks to our adoption of self-service technology. In May this year, our Sandicliffe Nottingham dealership had 65% of customers checking in from home and 62% at the kiosk in the dealership using Tjekvik this has a major impact on how our advisors feel about their role and reduces their stress levels considerably.”
Investing in Customer Engagement and Trust
However, using technology to increase efficiency must not come at a cost to customer experience. In an increasingly competitive market, dealerships must focus on building strong relationships with their customers based on trust and engagement. As Tony points out: "I initially hesitated when I encountered Tjekvik, being a bit old-school. However, with 38 years of experience in the trade, customer engagement has always been my top priority. After visiting Think Ford Farnborough with our CEO, my doubts vanished. Within five minutes of observing their bustling dealership at 7:30 AM, I was convinced of its potential. We swiftly embraced this approach and now have a welcoming host/hostess at the front counter. By standing alongside and engaging with customers, we have experienced numerous advantages. This excellent positioning allows for personal but digital interaction rather than processing people over a desk. "
Additionally, by providing transparent vehicle health checks and offering personalized services, dealerships can foster customer loyalty and satisfaction. Open communication, genuine interaction, and clearly communicated value-added services contribute to creating a positive customer experience.
According to Tony, this comes down to coaching and trusting your team: "Empowering people is crucial for progress. It requires collaboration, asking ourselves what we can do and how we can do it. Our ultimate goal is to ensure our customers never have a reason to seek alternatives elsewhere."
The Impact of Parts Supply and Localisation
Another significant challenge faced by the automotive industry is parts supply. Manufacturers must carefully consider their supply chain strategies, opting for localised suppliers instead of relying solely on international sources. Recent disruptions have highlighted the vulnerabilities associated with global supply chains, emphasising the need for a more localised and robust approach to parts procurement. As Tony rightly points out: “Manufacturers are struggling to get cars out of factories. Recently I witnessed the journey of vehicle production: leather sourced from Brazil, shipped to Vietnam for dyeing, then to China for stitching, and finally to Japan for installation in cars. It's a convoluted process, isn't it?"
Adapting to Electric Vehicle Trends
As the automotive industry transitions towards electric vehicles, dealerships must adapt their practices accordingly. While EVs may have reduced maintenance requirements like oil changes, there are other existing opportunities such as tyre maintenance that need to be maximised. Dealerships can leverage technology to provide customers with options for tyre replacements during check-in and detailed video reports during the service process, fostering trust and ensuring customer satisfaction. Tony sees customer education and meaningful engagements as the way forward: "People often assume they should go to a tyre shop for a tyre change, even though they're at the dealership for car servicing. They believe they can find a cheaper option elsewhere. However, it all boils down to the same thing: the vehicle is already at the dealership for service, and they need a tyre. The dealership can offer them the same replacement or another reputable brand. In general, people prefer not to go elsewhere unless given a compelling reason. Therefore, it's important to educate and engage the customer."
Embracing Change and Driving Success
Successful dealerships understand the importance of adapting to these seismic changes in the automotive industry. By investing in staff training, prioritising work-life balance, optimising parts supply chains, and enhancing customer engagement, dealerships can position themselves as leaders in a rapidly evolving market. As Tony summed up “It's crucial to embrace technological advancements, capitalise on emerging trends like self-service, and consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences. We need to make sure we've got people with the right skills supported by intelligent technology more than anything at all.”