Louise Coates, of the Digital FordStore, Manchester Arndale Centre, on a new way of selling cars and always looking for a way to exceed buyer expectations
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
Coates: I am operationally responsible for the new Digital FordStore in the Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre, having managed it from the initial concept and store design, through to build and staff recruitment and training.
We have 15 ‘hosts’ in store, specifically recruited based on their track record in delivering exceptional customer service, who are trained as product experts.
As well as ongoing responsibility for the team recruitment and training, I am the lead for the store analytics and vehicle management and ensuring the store retains a fresh feel.
Since we opened the store in July, we have seen more than 24,000 customers through the space. The concept behind the store is ‘A New Way To Buy A Ford.’ It is the first of its kind for Ford.
The permanent new concept store provides a relaxed, alternative environment where you can discuss your car needs with our friendly, knowledgeable store hosts.
You can also browse the Ford range on the large touchscreens in-store or on your own device and buy in-store or online via buy.ford.co.uk.
We have also now commenced test drives from the new Digital Fordstore.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
Coates: Creating an environment which delivers exceptional customer experience 24 hours a day, resulting in conquest sales for Ford Motor Company.
More than ever, customers want to buy from companies they trust. We need to take our product to the customers, not wait for them to come to us.
The future challenges will involve integrating mobility solutions into the store, e.g. ride-hailing, electrification and ever advancing vehicle technologies.
How might these challenges be overcome?
Coates: Delivering a great range of products at a fair price. More importantly, always looking for the opportunity to exceed customer expectations. Treat everyone as a potential Ford customer now or in the future.
What attracted you to this area of expertise?
Coates: Back in the 1990s, when I first left university, I worked in retail. I rolled out new concept shoe stores for British Shoe. At that point I had only worked in retail, which was always driven by a desire to provide exceptional customer service.
Throughout my career with Ford, I have always put the customer first, as I truly believe if you look after a customer and your product is good, they are more likely to be loyal to your brand. During my time as a regional manager at Ford, the biggest challenge I faced was growing our customer base, which is why taking the product to the customer is so important.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it?
Coates: People are the most important element in any business equation. The relationships you build with your team, managers, customers and suppliers determine your success.
Empathy is important, the way you treat others. During my visits to dealers, I always made sure that I talked to the team on the ground as well as the management.
I am a fair manager, who leads by example; always do what you expect your team to do.
What drives you?
To do my best in whatever role I fulfil. I want to work for a company that puts the customer at the heart of what they do.
I want to be a good example to my children; you need to work hard to achieve.
What’s your favourite app?
I love music, so I would have to say Spotify.
How do you relax?
I enjoy taking my children on trips as often as possible. We are hoping to do a trip around Vietnam next summer.