During the year we acknowledged that 62% of car owners value trust above other factors.
Our mot guarantee has helped many customers save money when faced with expensive mot repair bills and we have a number of loyal customers who request it every year.
FY14 has been a challenging year for our Autocentres business. At the beginning of the year car servicing was still regarded by customers as discretionary spending and in the first half of the year our sales were -2.1%LfL recovering to flat for the full year. In the second half of the year a mild winter meant that the usual business associated with that time of the year did not come through in the expected volumes.
The year also saw a change of leadership. In August, Bill Duffy left the business to be replaced on a temporary basis by Andrew Findlay, Chief Financial Officer and Autocentres Chairman. Andrew remained in charge until March 2014 when Andy Randall arrived as the new Managing Director for Halfords Autocentres. Andy will lead the business through the next phase of its development.
The Autocentres business Supports Drivers Of Every Car and complements our retail offer in meeting the Do it for Me ("DIFM") requests of our customers. Our ambition is to be the Best Garage in Town and to do so we are using elements of Halfords Retail's Getting into Gear strategy to influence our services, centres and colleagues.
The 'h' factor
Just as in the Retail business, trust is an important part of our offer. During the year we acknowledged that 62% of car owners value trust above other factors, with location and price as the next two factors. We seek to earn our customers' trust by giving them an enhanced customer experience, offering a strong brand, delivering a quality service at affordable prices and getting it right first time.
In order to revolutionise our service and augment our customers' experiences we have enhanced our online proposition and improved the online booking experience with an increased number of job slots. These initiatives are based on improving the expertise of our colleagues and delighting our customers. Over the year we have successfully improved customer feedback, with the number of respondents scoring us 10 out of 10 increasing from 49% to 60%.
The best garage in town
In February we opened our 300th centre in Accrington. We've increased the number of centres by a third since the business returned to the Halfords family in February 2010. Our centres are equipped with modern diagnostic tools and are able to perform work on any car without invalidating any warranties. Our colleagues are experienced, trained and passionate and we operate the largest independent apprentice scheme in the motor industry. We never fail to offer employment to our apprentices who complete the three-year training scheme.
We continue to make investments in multiple training programmes underpinned by investing in a new Learning Management System. It is important that to offer the best customer service we recruit, train, develop, engage and support our colleagues creating an environment in which they want to work.
Retail offer promotion in conjunction with Autocentre.
"From when we first went in we were treated very well. The reception was clean, tidy and warm. The manager Carl was very helpful and explained what was going to happen. The tyres were fitted by John who left our car under cover so we did not get wet when we drove it away, it was raining quite a bit! What I thought was great was that that when the tyres were fitted John washed the wheels as part of the job, this is a first for me and I have been driving for over 40 years. Well done to the two lads."
Click with the digital future
The new Autocentres website, launched in July, offers a much-improved service for online customers. There's a new Quick Book facility and clearer search and menu functions. We have introduced an 'Advice Centre' which highlights general advice, guides and specific events. Customers can search for help on such topics as brakes or air conditioning. Current hot topics include the Plain English Guide to Garage Jargon, How to Shell out Less on Fuel, and How to Prepare for an MOT.
21st century infrastructure
Our infrastructure continues to develop. Aware that our customers want flexibility as well as service we now have around 90 centres opening on Sundays. Tyres have become an important part of our offer and we continue to review our diagnostic solutions to ensure we have the capability to service and repair all marques of vehicle.
Autocentres friendly professional service.
Highly trained vehicle technicians.