An introduction to Protyre's new guest blogger
I was delighted to be asked to write a regular guest blog for Protyre. Whilst my topic is motoring-related of course, I write on behalf of women drivers who might like to know more about their cars and motoring choices.
My business background was in travel and tourism. This is where I earned my spurs, moving up the career ladder from telesales through management, general management then onto a family then corporate board. I encountered no gender bias whatsoever and worked alongside a team of the best men and women in marketing, sales and operational roles. When I moved into the motor industry I felt an instant cultural shock which I described at the time as feeling like the only cat in a dogs home. I wasn't welcome and I definitely didn't speak the language.
The life changing moment for me was when my stepdaughter came to stay with us one Christmas. She showed her Dad a garage bill she wasn't happy with. Paul checked her elderly Vauxhall and agreed she'd been ripped off and sold work that hadn't been done – this included selling her full price tyres that weren't new. I was amazed this could happen, knowing the safety implications here. When I spoke to the garage owner he was so rude to me I reported the business to Trading Standards and told all my friends.
It seemed as if most of my friends had either had a bad garage experience themselves or knew another motorist, male or female, who had. Digging deeper, I learned that the number of women drivers had risen dramatically over the previous decade, that garages weren't regulated and that mechanics didn't have to be licensed to service or repair our cars. Was this a business opportunity I could address to improve a service gap for women drivers?
My personal experience has always been that men act as if they know about cars whereas women, like me, aren't always that interested in them - other than wanting to run safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly ones, cost effectively of course. Clearly the motor industry wasn't totally in tune with Mums and daughters so I set up the UK's first membership club for women drivers in 2004, called FOXY Lady Drivers Club, to provide women with an informed choice of services that met my standards.
Happily, things have changed a lot for the better since. Measurable quality standards now make it easier to determine the businesses that are clearly better than the rest. I only work with those businesses so I can sleep at night. Nowadays the motor industry has many more women in it, and whilst there's still room to go here, we are naturally influencing and raising customer service levels to benefit all drivers, not just our female peers.
The exciting bit of the motor industry is that nothing stands still for long! We're looking at electric and self-driving cars as well as a growing list of baffling acronyms designed to make our driving safer, to help us navigate to our destinations and to entertain us en route. Needless to say, all these advances need understanding, using and repairing in time...
FOXY's business model is digital. Members join us online and partner businesses like Protyre are identified, approved, monitored and promoted as FOXY Lady Approved. Our partners can then offer their female customers a gift membership of the Club
, with their compliments.
The Club is now run on a not for profit basis, supported by our partners. I'm proud of the business awards we've won and, because we're an independent business, I can speak my mind and campaign about safety-related matters, with women in mind, when the time is right. You might think that in today's equality-conscious times, male and female customers would be treated the same by all businesses and I wrestled with this debate for a long time, knowing that women didn't feel this was happening in the motor industry. Then the penny dropped - what makes the motor industry different from the likes of the travel industry is that women weren't happy being treated like men and expected more for their money. One of the happy consequences of what we do today is that more men are enjoying higher standards too, especially those who didn't realise that service levels could be improved for them as well.
My personal mission remains to help more UK garages and car dealers understand this so they raise their game to cater for female motorists AND understand how to promote this difference to future customers. Yes of course men and women want the same value for money when it comes to their cars, insurance and garage services – it's just that each gender seems to have different shopping values and priorities that need recognising and addressing.
Vive la difference I say.
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