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Make entering awards one of your targets in 2018

Crescent Motoring Services

I am frequently asked why our business enters regional and national awards.

Of course, we are delighted that the judges acknowledge that Crescent Motors, to paraphrase them, ‘has what it takes to be an award winner’.

Through this blog, I would like to share some advice for would-be entrants to any award.

The starting point is that awards are a powerful recognition for the sterling work and contributions made by all the staff in a company.

We took the major decision to operate and deliver to a standard that matches or often exceeds franchised dealers.

Judges have been impressed by our determination to continue to raise the standards of customer care in all that we undertake on behalf of motorists.

They highlighted the leading role that our garages continue to play in getting a fairer deal and raising standards for all drivers. We are closer to our customers than many retail businesses.

Our determination to maintain that attention has been shown to be critical.

It’s how we act and how we deliver our service. We took the decision based on great advice to break out of the mould of the typical garage arena.

It took some planning. I wouldn’t say that I am a risk-taker; but I feel that can almost smell and sense a business opportunity.

Without that advice, I really wouldn’t have known what that felt like and how to take the actions that delivers the results we were looking to achieve. You will never, ever, succeed without hard work.

There is nothing that will replace commitment and dedication; and, coincidentally, it makes a great story for your award submission. Along the way, you’ll need some luck like in any business.

However, you cannot rely on that to deliver you with the results that you and your staff will want to achieve. And, when they have got to that level they will be hungry for more.

It’s almost counter-intuitive. Once the business adrenaline has kicked-in, it is difficult to stop the drive that it gives you and your team. Winning an award is just the start.

It shows your competitors, your peers, and the local business community that you have achieved a significant degree of success. But, in fact, it is a threshold beyond which each business still needs to aspire. It’s another rung in that ladder of, and I don’t like the expression, ‘continual improvement’.

In our experience, judges look for demonstrations of innovation, and commitment, passion and determination.

Importantly, we are also able to show that we can measure our achievements in customer service.

We have tuned our core competencies. Our business is integrated across all its activities.

We were delighted to be named National Independent Garage of the Year in 2015; and then again in 2016.

It was the first time that this top award in the automotive industry had been won back-to-back.

I have to say that it left others speechless. Our garages in Burton and Woodville had achieved national, yes, national recognition.

In 2017, we won the Independent Service and Repair Centre award from Car Dealer Magazine.

To make it more exceptional, these awards are based on independent customer ratings and an annual survey. It was customers who confirmed to the awards’ organisers that we deliver first class service.

They awarded us a 100% rating. Achieving this service-level means that we have already set the bar extremely high.

Now, our challenge is to maintain that level; whilst facing the new ‘examinations’ that it brings with it.

Our approach has been to make judicious investments in training and top-class equipment. It’s been said before, but, it bears repeating, your staff is your lifeblood.

Providing each of them with the tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability still remains critical.

However, the equipment alone won’t deliver what Crescent aspires to continue to achieve. We have worked hard to build and maintain the ‘Team Crescent Spirit’.

The results of the combination of training, dedication of the staff, marketing and promotion of the business, use of Social Media, plus our activities with charities, are all part of the mix.

That Spirit means that Crescent has been able to weather the inevitable storms that affect all businesses.

Like many companies, it hasn’t been a smooth ride, but we were prepared.

We have been able to capitalise on building trusting relationships with customers which is a distinct advantage for independent garages.

That said we have several advantages as an independent owner-operated company. Our move to Wetmore Road was a key decision.

Beyond simply expanding our capacity to handle service, repair and MOTs, we were able to create a business operating on a par with franchised dealerships.

Our initiatives immediately won high-praise from our customers. But, we don’t sit back on our laurels.

That’s not the Crescent Motors’ way. Like any business, we have strengths and weaknesses. We have issues to resolve; we are human after all.

Typically, we quickly learn from our mistakes, minimise them and move on, so that we are all always on a positive learning-curve.

Taking outside advice, and occasionally receiving specialist input, has enabled Crescent to stand apart.

Making the decision to bring in what I initially perceived as an outsider to assist me wasn’t easy.

Now looking back with the advantages of hindsight, I wish that we had taken the plunge earlier.

In our discussions, we investigate many issues and approaches.

Together, we consider, what many others might see as off-the-wall concepts before deciding on which to follow. The discarded ideas are not lost forever. Some have even resurfaced.

I was amazed how this approach has helped Crescent Motors to make its award submissions attractive to the Judges with a focus on how and why this business stands out. We aim to make the Judges’ lives easy.

If you only take away one thing from this blog; I urge you to think and plan more widely for your business.

Good luck with your award submissions in 2018.

Today’s blog is written by Steve Tallett, Managing Director of Crescent Motoring Services, whose garages are the National ‘Service & Repair Outlet of the Year’ 2016 and Independent Service and Repair Centre 2017; and concurrent National Independent Garage of the Year.

Crescent Motoring is also the first back-to-back winners of the Excellence in Customer Service Awards from the Birmingham Chamber Group.