All in all, the automotive industry seems like it will come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with relatively few battle wounds. Of course, car sales are barely half of the figures from before the outbreak and hundreds of thousands in the auto industry are still awaiting the green light to go back to work. But since the Trump administration has deemed that both auto sales and service are essential business in the United States economy, the return-to-work stage is picking up steam.
Dealers will not be operating the same as they once were, especially at the start. Social distancing practices will remain in the fabric of the American culture for months or years. For dealership employees coming back to work, there will be changes that need to be made, and it’s up to management and HR to ensure a safe transition.
Get Workspaces Ready Ahead of Return
According to the CDC, social distancing involves maintaining a six-foot distance from others and avoiding gathering in groups. For sales, service, and parts personnel, it goes against the grain of what’s been done since the inception of the auto business. Hence, workspaces need to be modified to ensure safety in the dealership and customer confidence when they come in.
- Ensure minimum distance requirements are met between workstations. That’s true for employees but especially important for customers to feel comfortable.
- Install barriers where required. Cashier offices and reception desks, for example, should have a physical barrier installed if a six-foot minimum distance can’t be assured.
- Provide cleaning materials for every employee. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer will go far to keep staff confident in their workspace and help maintain a clean store.
When staff are brought back, it should be into an environment that they can feel safe.
Draft a Safe Work Policy
Undoubtedly, there are new policies in the dealership that must adhere to government guidelines. Other policies that may have been lax before may be strictly enforced. To ensure everyone knows the policies and can adhere to them, a safe work policy should be provided to every team member.
How that looks will be different by store. Broadly, that may entail a no-touch greeting policy and proper handwashing techniques. More specifically, that could be a vehicle disinfecting process after a test drive, how to safely handle keys, what to do for trade-ins, the safe movement of service vehicles by valets, and the like.
Expectations for employees must be reiterated now, and it’s also a commitment from the dealership to provide a safe place to work.
Teach Any New Tools
Post-pandemic, the dealership model will look different. Digital retailing has accelerated years beyond the expected implementation time frame. Sales staff and sales management coming back to work after a shutdown may not be familiar with the processes or tools to sell cars remotely. Service staff may be unfamiliar with how vehicle pickups and drop-offs are being scheduled and executed.
Before expecting anyone to return to productivity, teach them how to use the new tools in their toolbox. It may be necessary to schedule tutorials with staff or service providers. Have it planned in advance of the return-to-work date.
Logistically, this process isn’t something most dealerships have ever had to prepare for. Plot out what it looks like for your store to go from its current state to full production and lay out the staffing needs along that timeline.
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Car Biz Today, the official resource of the retail automotive industry.