We’ve seen much change in the automotive industry since ‘social distancing’ became a term trending on Twitter earlier this year. From manufacturer shutdowns and stay-at-home orders forcing dealers to shutter all but the service department and PPE requirements upon return, the retail automotive environment has inevitably changed, and perhaps for the long haul.

That goes for daily processes in every department. For service advisors, it might not have been a glimmer in the back of their mind that even routine processes like the service walkaround would no longer be the same. Industry experts have been advising and training how to properly do a walkaround upon the service customer’s arrival, but those steps take a dramatically different look in a post-pandemic workplace. 

How the Service Walkaround Changes

Almost every step in the traditional service walkaround needs to be modified, whether for the time being or forever. The typical steps simply aren’t viable and do not take social changes into consideration. Yet, everyone can agree that the walkaround is a crucial step for service department sales and excellent customer service, so it needs to be modified. Here’s what it can look like. 

The Greetingservice

Handshakes used to be the primary form of greeting someone, and now they are taboo. A service advisor would often have extended their hand either as the customer exited their vehicle or as they approached the service desk. Absent the handshake, a greeting is still an important part of social interaction to make a good first impression and an initial point of building trust.

Good greetings that can be used instead of a handshake are available. While social distancing is in effect, a polite wave and a warm smile are potentially the best substitute. In the future when physical contact is permissible, an elbow bump might be comfortable for some. And a verbal greeting by name wherever possible is absolutely a good practice.  

Related: Must-Do Tasks for Service Advisors in Challenging Times

Exterior Inspection

It would’ve been a non-issue for customers for the service advisor to previously conduct the external walkaround inspection. But today, common touchpoints on a car might make both the service advisor and the customer uneasy. That includes door handles and the hood latch.

A service advisor can mitigate those concerns in one of two ways: either by wearing a pair of gloves or by performing the inspection without any contact. Without contact, the service advisor can engage the customer in the process by asking them to start the engine, turn the wheels to one side, and help with the light check.  

Underhood Checkup

At some dealerships, checking the fluid levels is part of the walkaround. For others, it isn’t. Especially now, it may be best to leave the underhood inspection to the technician in the shop so touching the hood and hood latch isn’t necessary.

Instead, it allows an opportunity for contact with the customer while the car is in the shop. When you mention that you’ll leave it to the technician ‘for safety sake’, it opens the window to follow up when the technician reports back. 

Details from the Driver’s Seat

Retrieving the actual mileage and checking for warning lights is common practice for a walkaround. But how do you do that without touching the door handle, steering wheel, and key? Ask the customer to participate in the process.

Request that the customer starts the engine while you’re watching from outside the car. Observe the mileage and check for warning lights from a safe distance. For most models, it can even be done with the door closed and window rolled up.

Like many basic processes that need to be modified post-pandemic, these aren’t new points. What this does is reinforce that service advisors don’t have an excuse NOT to perform walkarounds right now. It has always been a top way to boost revenue in the fixed-ops department, and you store needs it now more than ever.

Related: Steps for Staff Returning to Work after the Pandemic


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

Car Biz Today, the official resource of the retail automotive industry.

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