World's biggest Lincoln car showroom opens in Dubai
Elena Ford tells us about the challenges behind opening the first standalone Lincoln showroom in the Middle East
Buying a new car is a daunting process, not only because it will put you in debt for four to five years, but because the stereotype of overzealous salesmen bearing down on vulnerable customers continues to endure. Car showrooms can be a hostile environment, although judging by the relaxed ambience at the newest prestige showroom in Dubai, an atmosphere helped by a two-storey indoor waterfall, things are rapidly changing for the better.
“We don’t want the buying experience to be ‘one and done’ for the salesman,” says Elena Ford, chief customer experience officer for the Ford Motor Company, and someone who knows a thing or two about the business. “Those days are gone, we want to be there for the customer as they grow and as their lifestyle changes.”
In the family
It is no coincidence she works for a company that bears her surname: Elena’s great, great grandfather is founder Henry Ford, and her grandfather, Henry Ford II, is the man who gave us the Mustang in 1964. Yet Elena’s success extends beyond her family name. She has twice been named on the Automotive News list of 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry, and she was the first woman from the Ford family to take a high-level role in the company, when she was appointed vice-president in 2013. In that role, she was
responsible for developing global standards and sharing best practices for planning, training, vehicle delivery and customer interaction with dealers, as well as within the company.
She freely admits she has petrol in her veins when we meet in Dubai. She is in the city to open the new Lincoln showroom, which opened on March 31 and takes a different approach to the car-buying process. The focus at the showroom is on treating customers more like a member of an exclusive business club, rather than some random tyre kicker.
Look through the photo gallery above to see inside the Dubai showroom.
The importance of customer service
Her great, great grandfather predicted the need for personal mobility by inventing the production line that made car ownership cheaper, while her grandfather created the best-selling sports car of all time. Today, Elena is riding the crest of the newest, most important trend in the car business: customer service. It is the priority for every car manufacturer.
“The ownership experience is more important now than it has ever been, and our customers have to be advocates for the brand,” she explains. “We want to have retention with our customers and we want to create enrichment, which means we want them to have more than one vehicle within the Ford family.”
As the industry moves into an era of electric cars and ride-sharing, and personal mobility becomes less about the badge displayed on your car and more about convenience and connectivity, car companies face serious hurdles to maintain brand loyalty, particularly among the tech-savvy millennial generation. But Elena isn’t afraid to confront this issue head-on. “I see the customer experience in general, throughout the automotive industry right now, as challenging,” she says. “It’s something that people in the car business don’t want to do, so we have to find out how we make the buying experience more pleasurable for new customers.”
Inside the Lincoln showroom
This way of thinking is clearly defined in the new, 11,000-square-metre Al Tayer Motors showroom on Al Ittihad Road. It’s the world’s largest Lincoln showroom and the Middle East’s first Lincoln Vitrine operation, as well as being the first stand-alone showroom for the brand in this region, offering an integrated showroom, service centre and spare parts shop, all under one roof.
We've spent time with Apple and Delta Air Lines to learn how they go through the customer experience, and we sat down with Emirates in Dubai
It spans four floors and includes a business centre and cafe for customers who are able to work remotely while their car is being serviced. People looking to buy pre-owned vehicles can expect the same treatment as those in the market for a new model, as each car undergoes a 200-point inspection and is offered with a two-year service contract, warranty and a 15-day exchange promise.
To ensure the Lincoln showroom delivers superior customer experience throughout the process, Elena has looked to a variety of methods. “We’re always looking at different models from both the auto and non-auto-related industries, to see what works best under various situations,” she says. “We’ve spent time with Apple and Delta Air Lines to learn how they go through the customer experience, and while we’ve been in Dubai, we sat down with Emirates and it was great to see how they operate from a customer perspective and to talk about how they set the benchmark in their industry.”
Clever design tools have also been utilised at the new showroom, to ease stress among customers and remove the anxiety of shopping for a new car. This includes the introduction of individual, fully enclosed “client delivery suites” for the pick-up and drop-off of cars, replacing the traditional service desk.
Lincoln has also utilised natural surfaces throughout the Dubai showroom, such as timber veneer and leather, which are designed to give customers the feeling of being in an airport lounge.
“The Lincoln touch points we developed have been implemented into the dealership in Dubai, so the customer experience from Lincoln at the moment is ahead of Ford,” she adds. “Al Tayer Motors brought some customer experience things forward across all their brands, so we benchmarked Land Rover to see what we can learn and how can we make ourselves better.”
She says the Middle East is a big market for the company, and there are plans to launch its new retail experience – which has only recently been rolled out across the US and China – elsewhere in the region soon. “We look forward to integrating more of our ideas into our dealerships across the UAE in the near future.”
Published: April 18, 2019 12:54 PM