A growing sentiment among all Americans is an apprehension to return to normal life after the pandemic. A survey performed on behalf of revealed that a fear of contracting the virus still affects the majority of US citizens at 62%, and almost 7 in 10 of respondents state they will get the vaccine at the first opportunity. But even after vaccinations, 41% say they “still won’t feel comfortable indoors without a mask, even if everyone is vaccinated.” 

Other key findings from the survey include:  

  • 70% know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has had a positive test result themselves. 
  • 62% are apprehensive to return to normal life. 
  • 4 in 10 will miss aspects of “pandemic life”. 
  • 1 in 4 would “stop being friends with someone if they knowingly exposed them to COVID-19”. 
  • Almost three-quarters have increased their use of technology due to the pandemic.  

The results of the survey show that Americans are unlikely to resume their normal routines once the restrictions have been lifted, even with herd immunity achieved. Although the prevailing assumption has been that it will return to business as usual in the months following the pandemic, data suggests it could be a long haul – for all industries, not just the automotive industry.  

In light of the most recent survey data, how can dealers approach the future, both in the near-term and the long-term? 

Sales and service processes should avail to both 

With nearly two in three customers concerned about contracting the virus, dealerships will face three groups of customers on a daily basis: those who are conservative in their position on safety and the dealer response to the pandemic, those who are liberal, and those in neutral territory. That’s going to be true for all departments, particularly sales and service.  

Related: Declining COVID cases a cause for optimism among dealers

While many customers will be gracious about safety protocols, some will be frustrated by an overabundance of caution. Continue to offer COVID-inspired services like service pickup and delivery and remote selling while opening up the showroom and service drive to customers who wish to stop by in person. Both aspects will need to be done perfectly, so ensure your processes and staffing can accommodate either.  

For any in-dealership customers, expect to provide hand sanitizer stations and complimentary masks for the foreseeable future. 

Continue adding convenience with tech 

With 74% of respondents using tech more frequently due to COVID, it shows that consumers are satisfied to adapt. For sales and the F&I process, that’s certainly true with online applications and completing contracts and paperwork digitally. As AI-powered chat becomes even better, it can help engage consumers before life salespeople can jump in.  

For service, convenience with tech often means a less sales-focused approach. Consider a walkaround in the service drive for example. If the customer isn’t present to validate findings, they may not be willing to trust you until they get a second opinion. But with a third-party camera-based inspection system, they can see pictures that make approving a repair easier. 

Add tech that simplifies your current process rather than adding to it. 

Develop contingencies for the future 

No one truly knows whether the virus will dwindle into the background or there will be a resurgence. As such, dealers need to be prepared for three possible outcomes: widespread re-openings, a return to lockdowns, and a midway point with mild restrictions.  

Consider how your store can adapt and thrive in each of these positions and update your plan at least monthly. Although Americans are currently apprehensive, sentiment can change quickly under the right circumstances and leadership.  

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