Keeping the customer happy in Kroonstad

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and have led to a shortage of stock on some models.

Caption Toy Kroon1

For Raymond Garside and his team at Oranje Toyota Kroonstad, part of the CFAO Group, this means that you must double down on your customer relations and your communication with current and prospective buyers.

“We must foster an even closer and stronger relationship with customers, more so than ever before. We often cannot, with absolute certainty, tell customers when they can take delivery of their new vehicle owing to these pandemic-related disruptions.

“Our focus now is managing the expectations of customers in such a way that they feel informed, important and acknowledged during this process.”

Raymond is the new Dealer Principal at Oranje Toyota Kroonstad, a position he filled in December last year.

The farming community makes up the bulk of Oranje Toyota Kroonstad's customer base, making the Hilux a top-seller in the dealership.

He says that the stock delays are especially acute on high-end vehicles, where the long list of specifications makes them more vulnerable to parts delays from a larger group of suppliers. He says they do their utmost to keep customers happy.

“Kroonstad and the surrounding region are central in the farming heartland of the country, and farmers make up the bulk of our business. We also attract a lot of business from state institutions like the large prison in town and from other entities such as the municipality,” he says.

For Raymond, doing business in rural Free State is quite different from Johannesburg, where he spent most of his career to date. In his last position as Sales Manager at Pat Hinde Toyota in Springs on the East Rand, he and the dealership itself were finalists in the Manager of the Year and Dealership of the Year categories for 2019.

“Doing business here differs a lot from Johannesburg. In Kroonstad personal relations, meeting customers face to face, sharing a cup of coffee and shaking hands (or bumping elbows these days) are part of the business etiquette.

“In the big city the pace is quicker. A transaction will, in many instances, be completed electronically in full and you don’t necessarily get to meet the new owner in person when the vehicle is delivered,” he says.

“One thing customers have in common is that they know exactly what they want. They do their homework properly, and a sales executive could perhaps change their mind about a colour or spec but not easily about the model range they have selected,” he tells Dealerfloor.

So what is his short-term vision in his new position in Kroonstad? “We are just surviving and sustaining for now with all the uncertainty. In the medium and longer term, once we see the pandemic in the rear view-mirror, I would like to expand the business in Kroonstad. I firmly believe that we can double our output here.”

Raymond Garside is the new DP at Oranje Toyota Kroonstad.

“It does not necessarily mean expanding the premises, as the business today does not require more floorspace with predetermined sales and deliveries. I definitely believe Kroonstad has growth potential, and the agriculture sector is doing very well,” he says.

Raymond took over the reins in Kroonstad during December last year. He spent the last 25 years in the motor trade and has been with different Toyota dealers in the group since 2009.

Asked about what he does in his spare time, he says at this stage a lot of travelling every weekend between Kroonstad and Springs where his wife and two daughters are still living until the girls complete their studies.

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