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Managing Dealership Service Operations During COVID-19

The coronavirus has drastically changed the way we live, work, and play. As our current situation continues with no definitive end in sight, businesses, including car dealer service centers, are adapting to what may possibly become the new norm for several weeks to come.

The good news is that reliable transportation continues to be considered essential for many Americans. As long as folks need to service and maintain their vehicles, dealers will need to find creative ways to meet demand, while continuing to follow proper health and safety guidelines.

NADA Academy recently hosted a webinar titled Managing Service Operations: Making it through the COVID-19 Pandemic, in which NADA Academy instructors Bob Atwood and Larry Hourcle discussed how dealers can maintain safe and efficient service and parts departments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fortunately, we are seeing more of our service departments doing really great things during this disturbance,” said Hourcle. “We believe that the 2008 recession has left us better prepared for this current state.”service

Ensuring Customer Safety Amid COVID-19

Atwood and Hourcle provided insights on ensuring customer safety, while providing superior customer service. Some suggestions include:

  • Offering pick-up and delivery service so customers don’t have to leave their homes
  • Offering “contactless” pickup and drop off for customers concerned about contact with others
  • Extending service hours to accommodate more people and limit overcrowding at busy times of day
  • Implementing extensive sanitization procedures, including regular restroom cleanings, as well as wipe-downs of door handles, pin pads, and other common touch-points. 
  • Minimizing human contact and exposure throughout the repair and maintenance process
  • Closing all customer lounge areas and limiting the number of customers in the facility as a precaution.

Best Practices for Employee Safety

Keeping employees safe is equally as important as keeping customer safe. While a customer may only come in contact with one or two people throughout the day, your frontline employees will likely encounter a lot more. Here are some suggestions to keep them safe:

  • Washing hands regularly,
  • Keeping (and using) hand sanitizer at work stations 
  • Wiping down work stations throughout their shifts
  • Spacing staff across additional shifts to allow more physical distance between employees
  • Requiring all employees to wear gloves (and changing them regularly) when touching surfaces that customers are likely to touch

“This is a great time for your service leaders to do amazing things in fixed operations and show your customers the true difference between yourselves and the competition,” Atwood added.

As we all get further into this pandemic, I think we are finding that the world really is not coming to an end, but that success in these trying times is just going to require some adjustments and a fair amount of adaptability. Dealers who are willing to look for new and innovative ways to serve customers, in spite of the circumstances, will come out ahead when this is all over.

Ken Strong
Ken Strong
Retail automotive veteran and writer for

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