It’s all change at Total UK as Malcolm Jones is promoted to managing director and Marc Dagniaux takes his place as retail marketing director. The previous managing director, Gary Jones, has gone to Singapore to head up Total’s Asian activities.

The new appointments were effective on October 1.

“It’s a great honour to be managing director,” says Jones. “It moves me up to the responsibility of looking after the entire Total UK marketing organisation, which covers the retail specialities, commercial sales activity, the logistics, terminal distribution, the corporate functions of human resource, finance and corporate communications, with some legal responsibilities for the accounting functions of the two refineries.

“While I have had various roles in refineries early on in my career, there are some new areas for me in terms of the speciality areas – such as bitumen and aviation. But the basic business is the same – it’s all about looking after the customer, whether it’s aviation, lubricants or a retail customer. You have objectives and guarantees to serve these customers with – it’s all about fulfilling their needs.”

Jones has spent the past three and a half years as retail marketing director since his appointment in April 2000. Since then he has faced the difficult task of merging three oil companies – Total, Fina and Elf – into one fully functioning organisation, and setting a new course for the future with the right people on board.

“The highlights have been putting together a team that’s worthy of the name team,” says Jones. “And that means from the service station staff, right back up to the people working at our head office in Watford. There’s a focus throughout the retail organisation coming from the Total-Fina-Elf background of a commitment to satisfy the needs of the customer. There’s still work to do. But the achievement of an inward-looking organisation – or three separate inward-looking organisations – has been to move to one that is determined to improve on its customer satisfaction and its customer offer.

“We were able to use the re-branding project as a point of focus to bring about the necessary change in culture that was required. What I inherited was the Total brand, the Fina brand and the Elf brand, plus the Fina for You loyalty card, the Tops card, plus the three separate fuel cards.

“We were able to put the Total brand on the forecourts in a very short period of time given the dimension of the task. That took us around the first 12-15 months, and from that point onwards we were able to concentrate on the change in direction from retail as a physical asset, to retail as an offer for the consumer. We’ve taken time to do that in terms of understanding the offer of Bonjour. Now we have some 40-50 Bonjour sites in operation, that’s testimony to the change on understanding what the customer is all about. That to me is what the first retail team achieved.”

With the formation and implementation of the major steps of the retail strategy – a programme of closure as well as major investment to upgrade and re-focus the network – Jones believes it is a good time to

move on.

“I would never say the work is complete – we’re an organisation that is obsessed with continuous improvement, so, by definition, your work is never finished. But it is a natural transition as I hand over to Marc.”

Dagniaux has worked for Total Marketing France since 1977, and has pursued a career of sales and management within marketing, retail and commercial sales with a spell in information systems. Having just arrived in England, he is still getting to grips with the language as well as the workings of the UK market.

“I will be keeping the train on the rails, as we say in France,” he says reassuringly.

The closure programme is going according to the figures projected one year ago, with about 180 company-owned sites having been cut from the Total network. Apart from the odd one or two, the closure part of the programme is now complete. The company is now moving into the second phase of the strategy – a growth period. It has approval for the regeneration of 150 sites; and to seek, where possible, the acquisition of greenfield sites and/or new sites.

Dagniaux says the next big challenge for him is to take this growth and make Total forecourts destination points for customers because they know – and like – what they will find when they get there.

He has had a lot of experience working in areas where he has needed to understand the customers’ demands and will continue to pursue that in the UK in terms of what needs to be done to give them the right product and the right answer.

“There can’t be a change,” says Jones. “At a European level we are a company that is obsessed with the goal of being the point of reference for customer care and customer retention.”

Dagniaux has come from a country with a network of 5,000 Total sites – out of a total of around 14,000 with a similar population as the UK – and a market share of 20 per cent, where one third of the fuel volume is accounted for by business users. The Total fuel card is very strong in France as there is no independent operator such as in the UK with PHH, and fuel margins are better there.

However he can see that in the UK there is a big opportunity for petrol retailers to attract customers for the essential items in between their supermarket shop. “For us it represents a fantastic challenge,” he says.