This month, our contributors discuss how the changes to the way people communicate have affected the relationship between garages and factors over the years.
Managing Director, Autosupplies (Chesterfield)
The advent of new technology has meant we can communicate with customers in more ways than ever before. Whether it is social media, newsletters, training events or face-to-face meetings, we have to make sure we are active across all forms of communication.
As a motor factor, it’s important that we bring garages as close to the supplier as possible. Taking customers to facilities and trade events allows them to ask questions directly to the suppliers. The automotive aftermarket is a fast-changing sector and in addition to facing challenges from within the industry, we also have to ensure customers are assisted in ways that improve their business overall.
To these ends, we’re very active on social media, running regular promotions and communicating what’s new within the business. But, rather than move away from face-to-face meetings, we’ve looked to increase these and have a very active sales team that meets with customers every day. Here, sales representatives have massive amounts of information that they can pick and choose from to communicate to customers, along with special oﬀers and industry news.
Loyalty works both ways, and by this I mean we have to be loyal to our customers when bringing the latest information to their attention. There is a hunger for information from garages and ﬁlling this need ﬁts in with our philosophy that everything a garage buys we want to supply. Communication is no exception!
Proprietor, Scotlands Ash Garage
Like any industry, technology has changed how we communicate, which has greatly inﬂuenced the relationship between garages and factors.
People deal with people in the aftermarket. Garages need to know what’s going on to benchmark themselves against others. Without betraying conﬁdences, factors can help with this.
Sometimes there is no substitute to face-to-face meetings as this is where you establish and build a real customer-supplier rapport, but factors need to ensure that the same level of interaction is maintained through alternative forms of communication.
For instance, I know that more factors are using business systems backed up with mobiles, so they don’t miss customer calls. Adopting a telephone policy is a good idea, as the speed that you pick up the phone matters. The same applies to online enquiries. We do this for our own customers, so why shouldn’t factors?
Garage owners want to be able to engage with suppliers to learn about the latest technology. A regularly updated website, live social media feed or a monthly newsletter means that a factor can ‘speak’ to us, letting us know about new products, technology, seasonal promotions, etc.
No doubt methods of communication have changed, but with change comes opportunity. If more factors embrace these alternative forms of communication, it not only maintains existing relationships but can improve them too.