This year was the 14th time in a row BCA has won the BusinessCar Awards auction prize. Here, Tony Gannon, commercial strategy and communications director, tells Tom Webster why the firm won’t become a victim of complacency

Tom Webster: What does winning the BusinessCar Award mean to BCA?

Tony Gannon: The award means a great deal because, most significantly, it is awarded by the users of our service. It is very rewarding to get that vote of confidence. They [the customer] are judging us on the obvious business critical factors – quality of service, the prices we achieve and the facilities we provide.

Having won the award for 14 years in a row, can BCA do any wrong?

What is important is we continue to strive to do better. We have an internal philosophy that is geared around improvement. Our advertising line is “We never stop”, and we aim to continue to improve.

After such a prolonged period of dominance, how dangerous is the threat of complacency?

It is something we are constantly aware of. Complacency is referred to as something to be avoided like the plague. We hope that we are our own worst critics.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

It’s a combination of factors. Without denigrating our competitors, we aim to have people all the way from shop floor to boardroom who are hugely talented at what they do. With these people in place, it is about investing in facilities, systems and processes that deliver the end result.

What changes have you implemented in the past 12 months?

Over the last three or four years we have invested very heavily in our training academy in Preston. In technical terms, we have evolved our inventory management and marketing systems. Particular focus has been placed on these areas in the last 12 months.

What new technology or systems are you bringing in next year?

We have already started to roll out our new E-sale system across mainland Europe and this will be coming to the UK in the next year. The system will enable vendors and purchasers to be more effectively involved in the selling and buying environment. We will also be evolving our CRM [Customer Relationship Management] system to deliver more accurate targeting of buyers, delivering the info when they want, how they want and where they want.

What impact is the internet having on your business and how will that change?

We embraced the net well over a decade ago as a significant tool to run our business and as a means of running online sales, and the use grows every day. We give buyers the opportunity to log on discretely and securely, and we also offer information about future sales. We see the change coming through the implementation of the E-sale system mentioned before.

What effect on residual values do you think the talk of economic slowdown is going to have either now or in the future?

Results from BCA Pulse data [the quarterly market report released by BCA] very clearly demonstrated a marked downturn in both activity and prices in the fourth quarter of last year. At the turn of the year, the concern was that the recovery from this downturn would be very slow.

However, the January to March period has been more resilient than expected. Uncertainty remains over how the market responds over the next 8-10 weeks with the ’08 plate change and the traditional spring downturn in demand. There is a degree of cautious optimism, but that could change as quickly as in the last quarter of last year.

What do you feel the biggest threat to fleet sellers and RVs is going to be in the next year?

Fleet sellers can do nothing about the overall state of the economy – you can’t influence the economy and you can’t influence the cars de-fleeting in the impending months. What you can do is give vehicles the best opportunity to maximise their resale values.

How can this be best achieved?

It sounds obvious, but it is getting the basics right. Make sure a vehicle is prepared as well as possible by providing the V5 document, service history, the MOT certificate if relevant and all details of any repairs and support around the car.

In a downwards market, the good cars will still sell well and achieve the right money. The tougher the market, the more important these basics are.

How are customer demands changing?

At one level, demands remain simple. Customers want the best possible net value, and the best method of getting the money to them. An unsold vehicle may be incurring costs of £6-£10 per day – speed and the money are the most important factors and it will remain ever thus.

On the next level, customer service is of paramount importance, making the process as simple as possible. This may include collecting and preparing the vehicle or offering documentation storage services.

How long do you feel you can continue to dominate for?

The honest answer is I don’t know. All I do know is that we will try to do our best in 2008 and will be working very hard to stay number one, which is where we are. We will continue to do our best and improve as we can’t afford to stand still.