AMP was at Motability’s Big Event on Friday to learn just how important the channel is to dealers and what accredited retailers need to be doing to ensure they are keeping up with the strict standards imposed by the group.
The Motability scheme is a vital channel for a lot of mobility dealers who rely on it for a steady income. The scheme allows customers to hire equipment they would otherwise be unable to afford, making Motability popular with clients, dealers and suppliers alike, who are all presented with opportunities by being part of it.
In fact, for Capitol Mobility, the scheme makes up around 40% of one of its branch’s annual takings, showing just how important Motability is to some independent distributors. And for Alan Watkins, store manager at Easy Living Mobility’s Walsall branch, the scheme is a growing part of the business. Easy Living has been on the scheme for three years and is now a large fleet dealer.
Watkins says: “We’ve come a long way in a short length of time and it’s about making sure that as we grow we’ve got the backup that we need. It’s no good having 300 powerchairs and scooters out there if you’ve got one engineer who can’t cope with it. It’s becoming a major part of our business, undoubtedly.”
Bromakin Wheelchairs, which is highly regarded among its industry peers, sees Motability as one of its “big focuses”. Nick Martin explains that some customers who come into the showroom are unaware of the scheme and are pleased when they find out they are able to hire equipment at an affordable price. Martin recognises this customer draw as a “fantastic opportunity”.
The potential rewards Motability offers however come with an obligation on the dealer’s part to offer impeccable customer service. Keith Plumb from Charterwood Mobility says keeping up with Motability-standard service means finding out what the customer needs and then matching them to a solution.
He comments: “We’re a commended dealer and we do things the right way. We have engineers on the road and we have a dedicated team of admin staff to look after all the Motability customer. That’s very important on the scheme.”
Watkins meanwhile, believes that the most important part of running a smooth Motability operation is always prioritising the customer above all else. He says that when a customer phones a dealer, they need to make sure when they go out they’ve got a product with them to get the client mobile.
“It’s mainly having a mind-set that your Motability customer is not your average customer. It’s often someone who can’t come to you and you’ve got to be prepared to go out to them. If you keep that in mind then everything else will fall into place.”
For Martin, it is important the dealer helps the customer to fully understand what options are available, how they can make the most of the scheme and what duties the provider has. The fact that the scheme allows people to access products they normally wouldn’t be able to, makes Motability a good system, Martin believes.
He adds: “As a dealer, we do feel that having one of these products on the scheme is probably a better option than actually buying one.”
But to be able to provide good customer service on the scheme, dealers rely on suppliers to ensure parts are delivered quickly so customers are not left stranded. Chris Heckford, regional account manager for Freerider, says that acting quickly is just as important for suppliers as it is for dealers.
Speaking for retailers, Jo Wakins, from Capitol Mobility, says that if a supplier lets a dealer down then aside from the customer, the distributor is the one who is impacted.
Plumb says that it is important for dealers to work with suppliers that can get parts delivered quickly. “We’ve had it in the past where we’ve not been able to get the appropriate parts. It’s very important for the customer.
“We try to work with suppliers who we know will give us the service and understand the importance of what we’re trying to do. If everyone does their bit then the system works well and everyone’s happy.”
Martin says that if there is an issue it is important to communicate with a supplier and to let them know. He explains: “If there are parts or a product that we require we let the supplier know as soon as possible. We tell them it’s a Motability customer and they do tend to push things through fairly quickly.”
He continues: “We don’t favour certain manufacturers. We do it on an individual case basis because we’re a solution provider. If one manufacturer doesn’t provide that solution then we look at the next option.
“We don’t even look at the manufacturer really, we just know what products are available, what they can offer and whether they suit the customer’s needs. The manufacturer makes no difference to us as a dealer.”
Ultimately, if everybody in the supply chain performs, Motability can be a strong asset for mobility dealers. While the scheme may be far from perfect, especially considering recent press surrounding alleged ‘stockpiles’, most retailers seem to agree that the idea of it is good for the customer and importantly, good for business.
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