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Swindon businessman takes the Wow Factor to South Africa

Customer service innovations born in Swindon have been exported to the other side of the world, after a town businessman was invited to give a presentation in South Africa.

Back in April Dominic Threlfall, the managing director of Swindon Hyundai and Suzuki motor dealership Pebley Beach, developed his Wow Factor presentation to explain how he created an award-winning customer service strategy that encourages customers to return and recommend his business to others.

His thirst for innovations that he can adopt has taken him all over the world, including to the American National Automobile Dealers’ Association expo in Las Vegas.

And following his keynote speech to the first ever Automotive Management magazine Customer Service Summit at Silverstone, Dom was invited to travel to South Africa, where he presented to a national conference of owners and dealer principals representing 300+ dealerships selling all marques. 

On November 9, he presented at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel in Johannesburg at the invitation of tech firm Pinewood, with whom he has developed dealership management systems tools and processes.

“One of our innovations was to have customers’ details automatically displayed on the monitor when they call in,” said Dom. “It’s the kind of function you’d expect from a big call handler like a bank, but no-one’s really doing it for car showrooms and workshops.”

Dom has won praise for his creation of customer interfaces to enhance the customer experience at Pebley Beach. 

Everything from MoT and service reminders and simple online booking to being able to watch technicians work on your car via a smartphone are handled by the Hyundai 360 workshop automation platform. 

One of the most visual aspects of Hyundai 360 is the customer welcome programme, where appointments are linked to an external display panel. Number plate recognition software logs a customer’s arrival on site, welcomes them, and directs them to an assigned parking space.

“In South Africa they have an ambition to do all these clever things,” said Dom. “But like most UK dealers they are taking the ideas on board but going about it in a labour intensive way.  

“It might be just a 10 minute daily job, but by demonstrating a ‘work smart not hard’ policy I demonstrated I could save them 50 manpower hours over 12 months.  

“Bolt in a few more tech-savvy ideas you can literally save over a month of work across a business. This then frees up staff to invest more time in face-to-face dialogue with customers.”

But while his presentation was about embracing technology, it also came with a caveat.

“South Africa is in the middle of a digital explosion,” said Dom. “While we’ve had years to adjust to innovations afforded to us by the internet, while they’ve gone from a standing start to super-fast broadband.

“The temptation is to digitalise everything, but my message to them was ‘don’t forget customer relations – face-to-face contact is still very important and relationship building must be the top priority’.

“It’s all about using technology to improve the customer experience, not overwhelming people with it.”

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