One of the market’s largest dealers, Parkgate Mobility, intends to open a further three showrooms this year, which would bring its estate to 18 outlets, and is adjusting its business to help cope with more stores.
The dealer, which operates across Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, said its plans to open the new sites are “well on the way”, after it recently launched a new dedicated call centre at its Rotherham base.
The new call centre and showrooms reflect the dealer’s strategy to maintain safe growth across its estate and as part of this it has begun implementing a new retail platform across the business, including a new stock control system.
It is in the process of adopting software provider Assistive Partner’s UNIQUS iRetailer platform, which Parkgate’s owner Stephen Holland hopes will help the business to develop and run more efficiently as it expands.
He said that the dealer had been were running on four separate platforms and was operating its business from a basic CRM and accounts package, a fleet software package and a number of database and spreadsheet configurations that it had developed in-house.
“We were not generating the information we needed to run the business effectively, on top of this the information we were getting was having to be collected from too many places so the process had become very labour intensive,” said Holland.
Stock control is now a key focus for Parkgate and Holland noted that iRetailer promises to accommodate its central warehousing structure “without any problems”.
“We were particularly impressed with the fact that the majority of our suppliers’ products, product codes and up to-date pricing could be seamlessly imported.
“This was deemed particularly important as we were regularly having to manually go through the painful process of updating all of our prices made worse by the Brexit scaremongering, the successive drop in the value of the pound on the international market and forever increasing and fluctuating pricing.”
But while the implementation has so far been productive there have been a number of hurdles to clear. Getting shop managers and sales staff to change their working practices is what is proving most difficult.
Holland said: “It has currently come at a considerable cost in terms of licensing, hardware, training and man hours. At the moment it is too early to say it has been worthwhile but the outlook is promising.
“We realised from the start that with a company as large and established as ours it would be a very painful process adopting a new software platform and in some instances adopting a completely new way of working.
“We signed up to iRetailer in June last year and we are still nowhere near being fully operational. We have started by implementing the stock control system as this seemed to be a key strength of the software and an area that we were struggling to keep a grip on.”
As part of its overhaul, Parkgate has redesigned the layout of its warehouse, product displays and showrooms and has ousted out of date stock and replaced it with “fresh, relevant” products.
Tracy Simmons, Parkgate’s business manager, said that the reporting side the new software promised was what attracted him.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I likes to analyse everything. I have graphs, charts and statistics that cover every aspect of the operation from call handling, engineer effectiveness, marketing strategy, sales success, business efficiencies and customer satisfaction.
“We measure customer care levels and how customers rate our service, our staff and our products. In terms of marketing, we analyse our spend, what it generates, cost per call, what is effective and what is not. We have over one hundred monitored telephone numbers, which tell us who has phoned, about what, where and more. We measure conversion rates from call, to appointment, to sale and beyond, every lead, termed locally as a golden ticket, is analysed and measured. If we lose a sales we know who, where and why this has happened.”
The information garnered from the analysis is used in a positive way, Simmons insisted. “If you cannot tell someone they are doing a good job then you certainly cannot tell them they are not. All of the information is used to promote and reward individual and team effort and with Parkgate Mobility’s very low turnover of staff, something must we working.”
Simmons explained that the company currently runs fleet software alongside an accounts/CRM package and various “home-brewed databases”.
“To describe the process, when a repair/service enquiry arrives at switchboard it is filtered correctly to our service centre. The call is logged by the switchboard on a home-designed database; the service centre books in the job for an engineer; the appointment is sent from service centre to the engineer’s iPad; the engineer confirms receipt of the job; this is logged through the fleet software; the engineer proceeds to carry out the work and gives the customer a paper invoice; and on his return to base, the invoice is entered onto the accounts package.
“[iRetailer] promises to take care of each stage of the process with the customer’s history on-hand for the engineer allowing better decision making and improved customer service, it will even send an email receipt to the customer.”
Parkgate operates a central warehouse and distribution centre in Sheffield and has branches running up and down the spine of the M1 motorway between Derby and Leeds. It currently employs 65 members of staff. One of Parkgate’s local and closest rivals, Eden Mobility, has around 29 stores across the UK.
CLICK HERE to read our interview with Parkgate’s business manager, Tracy Simmons.