WOMEN’S MONTH: Nissan SA’s Lizette Crause on making an impact
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JOHANNESBURG - Gone are the days when vehicle manufacturers and the decisions made were the exclusive domain of men.
Seeing women in powerful positions guiding one of the biggest contributors to the country’s GDP is a breath of fresh air and can only be good for the industry.
And when you have wanted to be part of it for as long as you can remember that makes it even better.
Which is the case for Lizette Crause who grew up as the youngest child of four in a farming community around Amersfoort and like most farmers children was behind the wheel of tractors and motorbikes from a very early age.
“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be involved and be a contributor to the automotive industry, because I was passionate about cars and driving.
“I was fortunate to join Nissan in 2001 as an Aftersales Financial Clerk. I held various positions in Aftersales, Finance, Strategic Projects, New Vehicle Business Planning, Network Development and Africa Middle East and India Dealer Network development, before taking up my current position as General Manager, Customer Quality and Network Development.”
She graduated from North-West University in 1995, with a Bachelor of Commerce, Money and Banking Degree.
“I realised I had to continue my formal education and enrolled at the University of South Africa and completed a Bachelor of Accounting Science Degree. I completed the Chartered Accountant Trainee program at a firm in Tzaneen and during 2021, I completed the Nissan Africa Middle East and India Accelerate Region Leadership Program.”
So what does a dealer network development general manager do?
It has three main pillars in network development, customer quality and training.
“Network development is to establish a competitive dealer network with the best partners, management of dealer network performance and to ensure competitive dealer profitability for sustainable growth.
“We enhance customer experience and improve consistent brand image at the dealerships for 118 dealers in South Africa and 43 markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“For Nissan it is all about the customer. My team and I manage ‘Voice of Customer,’ which is to improve customer satisfaction, retention and quick resolution of customer queries.
“As part of training, the Nissan Academy has been established and is managed to develop dealer personnel to exceed customer expectation and achieve sustainable dealer profitability,” Crause explains her role.
Despite women becoming more visible and active in senior roles the motoring industry is still dominated mostly by men.
“I opt to forget that there are gender differences and focus on delivering impact. By focusing on the impact, the business stakeholders see you as a partner and colleague who contributes to the industry and business objectives.
“Nissan South Africa has set employment equity targets to reach by 2025, prioritising the recruitment and empowerment of women at all levels, with a focus on the inclusion of women of colour. These targets include an increase in female representation at top management or executive level to 25% and an increase in overall female representation at both senior and middle management levels.
“It’s encouraging to have female leaders within the organization and women power makes a difference to the industry,” she enthuses.
As dealer network development general manager there’s a lot going on and not just within the borders of South Africa.
“Leading the network expansion and growth partner appointment in Sub-Saharan Africa during the pandemic is definitely a highlight.
“There are four markets in Central Africa (Cameroon, DRC, Gabon and Rwanda) that were set up and started operations under a growth partner. Nissan’s footprint is also in progress for two West Africa markets to ensure the new Nissan Navara and other Nissan products as well as after sales service are available to customers in these markets.”
Crause also says that working on Voice of Customers is considered a highlight.
“It has been implemented for South Africa in collaboration with a cross functional team within Nissan South Africa, as well as the dealer network. Nissan’s focus on the customer is paying off with high and stable customer satisfaction results.”
But you can’t work for a car manufacturer and not have a favourite within the stable.
“It has to be the Navara. It’s no ordinary bakkie – it is capable and equipped to go anywhere and do anything with its ruggedness, safety, comfort and driving pleasure.”
Having been in the industry for a while Crause is well-placed to give advice to women looking to be part of the industry.
“Women have a level playing field in the automotive industry. Do not fear diversity, embrace it. Look for the impact you can make and don’t be shy to chase your dreams.”