26 September 2011

I suspect there may have been some raised eyebrows among the more traditional members of our industry at the news that HR Owen has appointed a ‘marketing and customer director’ whose background is selling mobile phones and beauty products.

The job title sounds like something dreamt up in the HR department of a manufacturer’s national sales company and the role – ‘developing the value of the HR Owen brand in the eyes of customers’ – is straight from the manual of a low-grade management consultancy.

Of course, HR Owen sells luxury brands such as Aston Martin, Bugatti, Ferrari and Rolls Royce to cosmopolitan customers from around the world. So, perhaps comparisons with a Nissan forecourt in Wolverhampton on a wet Friday afternoon are unfair and unrealistic.

HR Owen boss, Andy Duncan, has a strategy for the group, which he tags ‘Experience is Everything’. It means boutique-style showrooms and business partnerships with other luxury goods retailers such as hotels and up-market stores.

But, beneath the marketing speak, there are some fundamental truths for all auto retailers. HR Owen is seeking to create the “very best” luxury car experience in the world but there’s no reason why the same principle should not apply in every dealership.

Good retailers are all about the customer experience. Without that we might as well cave in now and switch to online selling at the lowest possible price. Not every retail group needs a ‘customer director’ but the concept is a sound one that every dealer principal should adopt.

Rupert Saunders

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