Engines roar as Inchcape begins work on five-year SAP project

Car dealer Inchcape has embarked on a global, five-year SAP roll out, valued at £6.4m.

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Car dealer Inchcape has embarked on a global, five-year SAP roll out, valued at £6.4m.

The international car dealer is attempting to strengthen customer and sales data, and provide a "measurably better service quality", in order to boost the rate at which customer visits are converted into sales.

The implementation is part of a global IT infrastructure upgrade at the firm, as the London-based company plans to use SAP to automate and streamline operational processes in its car dealerships around the world, as Inchcape continues to expand through acquisition.

In its interim results, released Tuesday, Inchcape said the SAP roll out would enable its sales team to focus on customer service. "This is a five year plan and means Inchcape will operate under a unified worldwide IT delivery model, reducing complexity and enabling greater local market flexibility through automated and streamlined sales processes, freeing up our people’s time to enable delivery of our customer focused vision."

In October, André Lacroix, chief executive at Inchcape, said the SAP system would "be a platform for the fast and efficient integration of new businesses as we execute our expansion strategy in developed and emerging countries". This included newly acquired retail operations in Russia, including the purchase of Peugeot and Audi dealership chains.

The company said it was measuring "hard customer data such as traffic, sales leads, and the number of test drives, conversion and retention rates to ensure we have the best available sales information at all times". It was also carefully measuring service level data using "cutting edge retail metrics".

In the results, the company vowed to set a benchmark for customer service as a means of gaining an edge over its competitors and boosting profits, as part of its "strengthen and expand" customer and growth strategy, with technology making the difference.

The firm is also implementing the Microsoft business intelligence system Office PerformancePoint Server in order to measure improvements and draw out useful information for dealership managers.

Speaking on the Microsoft implementation in 2007, Peter Wilson, chief information officer at Inchcape, told Computerworld UK that improving and monitoring the customer experience was crucial to the firm’s growth plans. “We’re trying to understand customer behaviour - how many customers are asking for quotes, or buying finance, for example, and how they feel about buying from us. We had no idea of these things 12 months ago,” he said. Other business areas being measured include parts sales and service.

Inchcape reported record pre-tax profits up 10% at £235m for the year to 31 December, on the back of £6.1bn revenues.

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