The BIG idea

PUBLISHED: 05:32 02 February 2015

Stephen Heathfield owner of Holt Antiques and Interiors Centre.

Stephen Heathfield owner of Holt Antiques and Interiors Centre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Ian Coates, managing director at Constitution Motors in Norwich, explains why customer service is the way forward – face to face and in the virtual world.

Tell us a little about the history of Constitution Motors.

Constitution Motors have been trading in Norfolk for more than 50 years. Founded by the Ramsey family in the late 1950s, the garage has seen many changes over the years. Formerly a bodyshop and fuel station, it has evolved and represented NSU, Datsun, Nissan, Skoda and more recently Hyundai and Subaru Franchises as main dealers.

We remain a family-run business and enjoy fantastic staff loyalty, with some of our staff being employed here for more than 30 years. We pride ourselves on looking after our customers and our manufacturer survey scores reflect that belief, with us regularly appearing in the top 10pc of the country for customer satisfaction.

You have recently taken on the Subaru Franchise, what interests you about this brand?

We have been looking for a franchise which complements our continuing relationship with the Hyundai brand as authorised service agents. We are in a rural community and Subaru gives us the no-nonsense all wheel drive vehicles which will deal with whatever the weather throws at us! Subaru is all about engineering and capability. On snow and mud they are very sure-footed, and with the recent introduction of a diesel engine they are also more fuel efficient and economical to run.

What particular challenges does the motor industry face at the moment and how is Constitution Motors rising to them?

The speed of change is the greatest challenge. Keeping up with the different routes to market, sharing data on Twitter (follow us @OilTheSqueak) and Facebook, ensuring that our offers are current and relevant on the internet. I believe that consumer expectations are far greater than they used to be, and we are very fortunate that our customer service focus holds us in good steed. At Constitution we fully embrace change and have invested heavily in staff training and development to ensure that our people are ready for what the future holds.

Have you noticed changes in what Norfolk customers are looking for in their choice of car?

Yes, we have. Customers are much more environmentally aware and do take this into consideration much more in their buying cycle. However, I firmly believe that there is no substitute for excellent customer service and people would much rather be welcomed by a friendly face and a warm environment rather than an aggressive salesman. Our philosophy is to “make friends” with all of our customers. People also want to deal with knowledgeable employees who can help and suggest the best options for them. We have just launched a new website for our Hyundai customers and prospects, called, which uses our 20 years of Hyundai expertise to advise customers on all things Hyundai, from car sales to service and parts.

So Ian, what is Constitution Motors’ Big Idea for driving forward Norfolk’s motor industry?

I believe that the motor industry needs to adapt to changes in customer habits.

Building huge “glass boxes” as showrooms will soon be a thing of the past, as more priority is placed on building affordable housing. Customers will visit “virtual” showrooms at a time that suits them in the comfort of their own living room. It will then be down to us to take cars out to customers’ houses for them to view and demonstrate in their own surroundings. Existing showrooms could then take on a more community role, being used for dance classes, fashion shows and educational activities in the evenings, rather than burning lights to show off shiny new cars to nobody in particular.

Constitution Motors, 140-142 Constituion Hill, Norwich, NR3 4BB; 01603 788800;

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