Volkswagen Van Centre Liverpool is top of the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle class. Since opening in 2011 the business has been given no fewer than 14 network awards. The team has an apprentice in almost every position in the business so the talent can be ‘home-grown’ and they have a customer-obsessed culture. So what are the secrets behind their successes?
David Cowan, now Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Brand Director for the Swansway Group (the owners of the Van Centre), was the Head of Business at Volkswagen Van Centre Liverpool from the van centre’s initial construction until January 2015. He began by explaining how the success of the centre took shape: “The Swansway Group invested £2 million in the construction of the brand new state-of-the-art business. Since opening, in 2011, we have gone from strength to strength both in terms of business performance and customer care. I have slowly built a team who are customer-driven – in fact we have become a little customer-obsessed.
“It’s this focus that has resulted in us receiving our impressive awards tally from the VW brand in recognition for our service and performance. This has led us to become Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles most successful van centre.”
Analyse, Plan and Deliver
Their approach is self-proclaimed as extreme but simple – ‘analyse, plan and deliver’. As Cowan said: “It has worked well for us so far so why change?”
The dealership’s latest awards came in February, when it won gold at the 2014 Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Performance Awards and also picked up the Customer Satisfaction and Group Performance titles at a recent gala event hosted by the brand.
These awards are as a result of the centre’s claims to work hard to ensure their customers get the best customer service they can offer. “Without our customers we have no business so we are focused on building long-term partnerships,” explained Cowan. “We recently introduced customer tokens of appreciation. These are small personalised gifts which are given to customers when they collect their new vehicle or when they have had a service. We are very pleased with our performance to date but we can’t afford to be complacent so we are always looking at new customer focused initiatives to maintain our top position.”
Detailed customer satisfaction research has also been linked with their success. Cowan declared: “The brand operates a comprehensive customer satisfaction survey and we believe analysing these results is key to our success.
“We identify the areas where we could improve, create a plan and deliver it. It’s not just the managers who produce the plan it’s a team effort, this way everyone is involved in our success. We’re not perfect, we get it wrong now and then but we carry out follow up calls and fix any dissatisfaction early, it’s about treating people how you want to be treated.”
From this they have noticed a change in their customers’ needs, and rectified the issue. “We have noticed a growing concern for any vehicle downtime. If a customer’s vehicle is off the road it can have a significant impact on their business, so naturally they want the diagnosis and repair as quickly as possible. We have introduced a dedicated diagnostic bay for non-routine repairs and diagnostics and have found this has speeded the process for our customers,” added Cowan.
The dealership is also looking at extending opening hours to prevent this: “We are currently reviewing our trading hours and will be trialling a workshop shift system which will increase our availability both early mornings and late evenings. Its success will determine our future opening hours,” declared Cowan.
Home Grown Talent
Like most CV dealerships, Volkswagen Van Centre Liverpool employ apprentices – unlike most CV dealerships it employs an apprentice in almost every position in the business. Cowan explained why they put their faith in young blood: “We believe it’s important for the business to continually bring new blood into the industry and feel a clear training framework is necessary to help nurture and develop the right skills of these individuals.
“By taking on apprentices it means our up and coming talent is ‘home grown’, instantly learning the ways we want our customer looked after.
“As a group that very much works together, many of my experienced team members help to mentor the new talent by sharing their knowledge and skills and this has been very beneficial to the business as well as building camaraderie.”
And it’s not just the apprentices that are carefully trained, staff training is important to the whole business: “Staff training is ongoing both from the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand as well as the Swansway Group. As we are customer satisfaction obsessed we are continually looking at ways to improve our service, which we then share across the team,” he added.
A final reason why the dealership believes it is doing well is its Group values – something Cowan believes makes the dealership stand out from the rest: “Our Group values are real and lived every day. They are ‘caring, honest and proud’ – and so are we. Pride is a big reason why we are doing well; we follow up every point to ensure we are the best we can be.”