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Number one not enough for Toyota

Bettering the best: Toyota Australia executive sales and marketing director Tony Cramb (below) said while he was pleased with the sales results, customer service had been highlighted as an area needing an overhaul to maintain the good figures.

Toyota takes out car sales crown again but says it has room to improve

6 Jan 2015

TOYOTA has been crowned the market leader in Australia for the 12th year running, but the car-maker’s local marketing boss says the company is not resting on its laurels, announcing a cultural and operational overhaul to improve customer service.

Speaking at the presentation of the 2014 sales results in Sydney this week, Toyota Australia executive sales and marketing director Tony Cramb said true leadership is more than being the best-selling automotive brand in Australia.

“We are keenly aware that we’re only as good as our next customer thinks we are, that’s why Toyota and our dealer network have now embarked on a once in a generation change to our culture and to our operations,” he said.

“It is centred on our determination to build our brand and sales by ensuring that we can provide the best possible customer experience.”

Mr Cramb said Toyota has identified areas in which customer service needs to be improved.

“We’ve done a lot of analysis in the last couple of years to understand the pressure points for consumers in the automotive industry – they happen at purchase, they happen at service and they happen during the life of the vehicle,” he said.

 center image Left: Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb.

“What we’ve realised is there are many small issues that do annoy customers about their ownership experience of the car and we’re trying to address each and every one of those so that the customer stays with Toyota for life.”

The overhaul will also address the attitudes of some dealership sales staff, in particular, the treatment of customers at the buying stage and during servicing.

“What we’ve learnt is that dealings with our sales people from time to time in different dealerships has not been completely satisfactory and sometimes our behaviour was causing discontent in the dealership,” he said.

Mr Cramb used the example of the pressure placed on dealership staff to meet end-of-month targets and the affect that potentially has on buyers.

“If you’re a customer and you’re buying a car at the end of the month you may well be pushed to take delivery of a Toyota vehicle by the end of the month so that we can get that sale in,” he said.

“Well that’s not customer friendly, that’s not thinking about it from the customer’s perspective. The customer should be able to take delivery when it suits them – it’s a really minor point but it really annoys some people.

“So we’ve had to look internally and make some changes to our behaviour and the way we motivate the dealers and the way we encourage the dealers.” The dealerships themselves are expected to evolve too, with Mr Cramb saying that retail outlets in shopping centres similar to those in Japan will surface.

“Those kind of investments are things that we need to look at in the future and so we are talking to dealers about different retail environments and different ways of presenting our product to the customer.” In the meantime Mr Cramb said the level of investment in dealerships will remain at current levels and while there will be no increase in the number of sites, certain facilities will be upgraded to meet standards.

As part of the plan to improve customer service Toyota is also planning to boost its digital presence.

“We have to prepare for the digital world and in the way the customer interacts with brands.

“There’s a lot of investment that needs take place between us and the dealers, so that it’s a seamless experience for the customer in purchase, service, finance – every aspect of owning and buying a car.”

Mr Cramb said staff retraining will take place at Toyota’s Centre of Excellence based at the Altona manufacturing site in Melbourne’s west.

“That training centre will be the hub of changing the culture of our franchise through our people, through our dealers and through everybody involved,” he said.

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