Motability and Lorraine Morris getting disabled people moving
- Credit: Archant Ross Berridge
'Some people have no idea Motability exists,' says Lorraine Morris, Motability specialist at Busseys in Norwich.
The scheme enables disabled people in the UK to lease a new car using their government-funded Disabled Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, War Pension or Armed Forces Independence Payment.
'It's called 'worry-free driving' because it doesn't just include the car,' she adds in her warm, down-to-earth voice. 'Insurance is included, as is RAC, tyres, glass and servicing work – it's all covered. All you have to do is put fuel in it.
'It's worry-free for people who have other issues to think about.'
Lorraine has worked at Busseys in Norwich for half her life – it shows her commitment to helping people and is the reason she is an expert in helping people find the right vehicle. And if that wasn't convincing enough, she's a multi-award winner. From sales to customer feedback it's not surprising that she is most proud of the very positive comments her customers give.
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'Some people think Motability is really hard to do. They're scared to come in the showroom sometimes. But if you can turn that around to being in a lovely new car, it gets people out and about and gives them a new lease of life – it's amazing to see and it gives me such satisfaction.
'One woman came in not knowing she could even get a car. She left a few weeks later in a brand new car having never had a new car in her life – that makes me happy.'
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Listening to Lorraine describe her job is like hearing someone talk about their lifelong hobby or children's achievements – she's brimming with passion and pride.
Her awards for customer service therefore come as no surprise. Lorraine receives thank-you cards for her role in getting people moving.
'People are so happy, but I always say, 'I'm just doing my job'.'
Such is her relationship with many customers that she stays in touch after a sale. Lorraine and the rest of the Motability team at Busseys already have a very high renewal rate and, although sometimes they lose customers to other manufacturers, 'we find they often come back to Ford and Busseys'.
Staying in touch means that switching back is easier to do: 'It just means it's an easy conversation to have.'
Motability: skills and knowledge
'I've always been interested in health,' says Lorraine, who studied health at college. 'My job is to be a sounding board for people's problems, not just try to sell them something. We talk about people's lifestyles, their problems and the things they encounter on a day-to-day basis.
'Lots of people like to tell you about every operation they've ever had - which I find quite interesting!' she says. 'It's all part of building a rapport with a customer and making sure they get into the right car for them.'
With 20 years' Main Ford Dealer experience under her belt, Lorraine has become an expert in helping people make the right decisions – always guided by the right solution, not just selling a car.
'We don't use the hard-sell approach – 'get all this money off!',' she explains. 'We don't try to sell the highest-spec, most expensive car or the latest upgrade – it's just about defining what's best for a given person. Yes, we have to sell cars, but it's not a success unless we match someone into the right car.'
From showroom to driver's seat
Lorraine's key role is to correctly assess the best solution for a given customer's needs.
'The main question is whether a car is suitable for their particular disability. I spend more time talking about seat height and boot space than I do anything else. The most important things are ease of getting in and out, and any essential equipment that people may need to carry with them, such as wheelchairs and oxygen tanks.
'Some people don't drive and have a driver instead, so they have different needs.
'Sometimes a standard car does not meet a customer's exact requirements. We can arrange [with a Motability-approved adaptation specialist] to add things to a vehicle to make a car, that wasn't suitable, suitable. There are things like hand controls, boot hoists and person hoists to get people in, which we can offer as a solution if people's initial car choice doesn't meet their exact requirements.'
Lorraine and the team liaise with adaptation specialists and this access to experts means customers aren't limited in their choices.
'Hoists won't fit into every car so sometimes we need to refer customers.'
Because the Motability contract is for three years, Lorraine and her colleagues use a comprehensive suitability questionnaire to make sure the solution is going to be the right one over time. Some conditions can deteriorate and what people need from their car can change.
As Lorraine explains, Motability can amend a contract mid-term – changing from a manual to an automatic, for example.
But this is where Lorraine's experience is invaluable. Having seen hundreds of clients over her two decades, she is an expert in assessing immediate needs, as well as how those needs may change over time.
'I wouldn't be doing my job well if I allowed someone to pick manual at the beginning, knowing that they'd probably need an automatic in time.'
'I see a real cross-section of people,' beams Lorraine. 'Some people are really into their technology, while others are focused on their budget.'
And of course some people have demanding needs – most of which can be assessed and addressed by Lorraine.
'The most common adaptations are hand controls for the brakes and accelerator. We also arrange boot hoists and move accelerators to the left for amputees or people who have had a stroke.
'I did have an extreme case where a customer with a Ford Galaxy had electric everything,' she describes. 'He drives with a joystick, not a steering wheel.'
Other options include roof boxes. This clever device allows a customer who is unable to stand or weight-bear, to transfer from a wheelchair to the driver's seat and store their wheelchair. The roof box tips up and lowers via a chain mechanism that, once the driver is seated, lifts the wheelchair up into the box.
'We have a wide range of cars for people to choose from. Currently the Ford Focus and Ford Kuga are the most popular, although almost all Fords are available.
'We're finding that people want high seating positions more and more. The SUV style is becoming very popular, so things like EcoSport and Kuga are sought-after.'
Lorraine has witnessed new technologies transform the lives of her customers.
'I've seen the introduction of more airbags, power steering, ABS and phone systems and built-in sat-navs,' she says before describing Sync: 'This system links the driver's phone to the car so they are able to make safe, completely hands-free calls using voice control. Sync also includes standard emergency assistance. This means that if they're involved in an accident, it automatically calls the emergency services. For people who have limited mobility it can be a life-saver.'
Although the technology has changed, Lorraine's passion for helping her customers certainly remains constant. Perhaps you're someone whose life has already been transformed by Lorraine's knowledge and skill – or maybe you'll become one in the future.