People power to the fore at award-winning dealership

Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012
Richard Lambert, with Glen Chisholm

JOINT EFFORT: CockramNissan sales manager, Richard Lambert, with Glen Chisholm from GRC accessories contractor fitting out a new car for a customer. For Cockram Nissan building close relationships with their suppliers is very important.

Alistair Hazeldine
TEAM LEADER: CockramNissan dealer principal Alistair Hazeldine says it is the dedication of his staff to the business which is the secret to the company's success.

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Severe earthquake damage which will see Cockram Nissan having to demolish and rebuild its entire dealership complex has not prevented the well-known Christchurch car retailer from picking up the Nissan New Zealand Dealer of the Year award.

Dealer Principal, Alistair Hazeldine, says winning the award is a remarkable achievement for the business, himself and its 36 staff.

"Against all the adversities including operating from badly damaged premises and despite being in one of the most competitive industries in the world, little old Cockram Nissan here in Christchurch was able to take out the top award beating 30 other Nissan dealerships throughout the country."

Its success goes beyond winning such awards. Cockram Nissan has consistently been the number one Nissan dealer in New Zealand for annual sales of the Nissan Navara range for a number of years. With overall vehicle sales up close to 40% to date in 2012 compared with 2011, it is looking good to retain that title again next year.

Hazeldine is quick to attribute winning the accolade to focusing on people as opposed to being focused on vehicles.

"There are three groups of people you have to look after to be successful as a dealer principal - your staff, your customers and your suppliers. Any one of these three groups has the ability to improve your business and make it an award winning success when you treat them with respect. Conversely, treating anyone of these three groups with disrespect can poison it overnight."

He adds: "Selling vehicles is first and foremost a 'people business' and that is what the late Bill Cockram told me when I started work here on my first day back in 1980. He said "It's all about the people, son."

It is very much a team environment at Cockram Nissan with everyone on the payroll being 100% dedicated to the company.

"Staff here consistently perform above and beyond my expectations. Often I have to tell people to go home at 6.30pm because they just love working here."

As an example of this dedication to the company he notes during the aftermath of the earthquakes and last year's big snow storms staff was always on hand to lend a hand doing any task including grabbing a shovel to help clean up after the quakes or snow.

He adds: "I appreciate the contribution every staff member makes to the success of this business every day whether they are in sales, administration, or in the parts or service departments."

Staff loyalty is exceptionally high with a number of staff apart from himself having been with the firm for more than 20 years while around half have been with the company for 10 years."I don't think you would get that sort of dedication and loyalty in Auckland."

Customer loyalty is exceptionally high with their customers spread throughout the South Island. Hazeldine says people like to take advantage of the fact Cockram Nissan has a bigger range of new and late model second-hand Nissan vehicles to choose from than any other dealership in the South Island.

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He says in many ways their customers are like an extension of their staff.

"They may not be on the payroll but they are still a part of the Cockram Nissan team even if we only get to see them once a year when they have their vehicles serviced."

He says the quality of their after-sales service is the key to the level of customer loyalty they enjoy.

"It is often said that it is the salesperson sells the first car but it the after-sales service which will sell that customer their next and their next after that. Sometimes I joke it is the service department and workshop area which should be at the front of the building not the showroom."

Half a century of commitment to Nissan in Canterbury for Cockrams
Cockram Nissan (as it is known today) was one of the original six Datsun Dealers in NZ and has been selling new Nissans longer than any other dealer in New Zealand.

Due to the damage caused by the earthquakes to the company's premises, over the next few years Cockram Nissan will be transformed as a brand new state-of-the-art dealership complex is built. Dealer principal Alistair Hazeldine is excited about the prospect.

"The existing new car showroom was at the leading edge of showroom design when it was built 28 years ago and still looks modern today despite the earthquake damage but the rest of the buildings date from the 1940s. We will be able to build not only a new showroom and administration area but a brand new service and parts facility as well."

The new dealership will provide the perfect home for what Hazeldine says is a very strong product line up from Nissan. He says sales of their Navara ute range is exceptionally strong at the moment with the upsurge in demolition and construction work in the city.

"With single cab, king cab and the popular double cab variants, there's a model to suit just about everyone.

Yes there is plenty of competition around but most buyers are prudent enough to know that a Nissan is a wise choice."

"Sales to what I would call the 'hard hat brigade' are very strong and we know what people in this market sector want. They tend to have very specific requirements and often require their new Navara right there and then."

At the other end of their range the quirky Nissan Juke compact five door hatch sourced from Nissan's plant in Sunderland north-east England is also proving extremely popular.

"Nissan New Zealand is very fortunate in being able to source models from any Nissan plant where they produce vehicles in right-hand drive. Because of this we were able to bring the Juke to New Zealand before it was launched in Australia.

Past Success

Our extremely low staff turnover. If I have one or even two staff leave in a year it is extremely unusual. People just love coming to work here.

Future Hope

To have the most 'state of the art' Nissan dealership in New Zealand and remain the most successful and to continue to see the look of happiness in our customers' faces.

Greatest Moment

Many...but winning the Nissan New Zealand Dealership of the Year award for 2012 and being presented with that award in Sydney in front of representatives from every Nissan dealer principal in Australasia. I only wish all our staff had been there at that moment.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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