Mazda UK's growing reputation as the franchise of choice for large public limited companies and small family-run businesses alike is backed by an innovative approach to dealer training through the work of the Mazda Academy.
Just like the relationship Mazda has with its dealer network, training is seen as a two-way exercise with trainers and trainees exchanging ideas.
"If we prescribe something and they know it doesn't work in their dealerships, they're encouraged to tell us so we can all work out a solution," explains Bram van den Berg, director of the Mazda Academy.
"We focus on training that gives the dealer network exactly what it wants by asking dealers what they want," he says.
The approach is revolutionising the way dealer principals view training because it challenges the conventional concept by embracing modern technology. Almost 90 per cent of the training is done online and interactively through podcasts, webinars or other forms of e-learning that include video, drag and drop functions and multiple choice questions.
"In our sessions we prioritise partnerships, sharing experiences and having fun! It's serious business but with an element of fun that really helps trainees engage and do something, rather than just look at a screen."
This approach helps overcome in-built resistance to training, seen by many as an irritation because it takes staff away from their desks and can create staff shortages, explained Bram.
Training at the Mazda Academy is currently focused on sales, aftersales, parts and technical maintenance; a bodyshop scheme is also being developed.
One major difference between the Mazda Academy and other training schemes is that the Academy goes to the dealers as well - further evidence of Mazda's partnership approach which has seen the strongest network coverage since Mazda came to the UK in 1969 with 20 new dealers signing up in the past 12 months.
The Academy's Dealer Enhancement Programme puts Mazda UK business managers on site working with the dealers - from receptionists to dealer principals - to unearth the real issues facing the business and come up with solutions in the form of an action plan.
The business managers also follow-up with the trainees when they return from the Academy to make sure they are using their training. This is aimed at encouraging dealerships to take ownership of formal learning to make sure the whole business develops and moves to the next level.
In this way, van den Berg believes that training becomes a series of events that benefit the whole dealerships with better staff retention, higher dealer profitability and increased customer satisfaction.
Engaging and motivating staff will play a huge part in the Academy Training to ensure that customer satisfaction levels are being increased. This will be extremely important for Mazda UK and its entire dealer network as it also helps build brand awareness - an important consideration as cars become ever-more competitive.
"Mazda wants to challenge the rules with its sales process and introduce a bit of fun to things," concludes van den Berg.
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