So many industries have been restricted or shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has undoubtedly affected service and repair shops too, but auto repair shops have been deemed essential businesses. More than just making you feel good, that should also motivate you to continue providing that service to your community in a responsible and safe way—in a way that protects not only the health of your customers and your employees but also the health of your business.
1. Sanitize surfaces.
Your crew comes in contact with a lot of surfaces throughout the day. Use proper sanitizers to disinfect steering wheels, key fobs, gear shifters, door handles and locks, turn signals, and so forth. Use seat covers and steering wheel covers—and dispose of them properly after the appointment. Doing this properly will reduce the risk of viral transfer, and put your customers at ease.
2. Wear gloves at all times.
Not only does it prevent the spread of the illness from surface to surface, wearing gloves discourages face-touching, which is the primary way COVID-19 is spread.
3. Keep sick employees at home.
Even if it’s just a sniffle, require your employees to stay at home when sick—and if you’ve got the budget, pay them to stay home. It might seem like a high cost to pay employees to stay home, but the cost is greater if your whole crew comes down with something or spreads it to the community (and in fact, you may be required to offer paid sick leave that is then offset with tax breaks depending on your business size).
4. Share your practices with your customers.
Show them how you’re keeping them safe—from cleanliness practices to new hours and so forth, make sure your customers know what’s changed. Use email, social media, text messaging, and your website to get the word out.
5. Meet customers outside.
Have a designated pull-up spot and meet customers there to keep them out of the lobby. This reduces contact points and potential crowds. Or, better yet:
6. Offer free pickup and delivery.
The benefits outweigh the costs here. Not only does this offer convenience for your customers, it also takes one more contact point out of the equation entirely. And when many customers are reducing unnecessary trips or under a shelter-in-place order, this could be a huge differentiator between you and the competition. In fact, some companies have begun offering house calls for services that can be done in the customer’s driveway, like oil and filter changes.
7. Don’t stop advertising.
If you’ve got an advertising budget, now isn’t the time to let up. Not only does that put you ahead of those who’ve cut their advertising, it’s also a way to let your customers know you’re still open and adapting to keep their cars running.
8. Be flexible.
Things are crazy for everyone. Staying flexible in hours, staff requests, and even pricing can help you meet immediate needs and establish yourself as the helpful choice for the future.
9. Take advantage of government programs and incentives.
If you’re struggling to keep staff on or keep your business afloat, read up on the resources available to you as a result of the government relief effort. We’ve put together this guide that has an up-to-date summary of what’s out there, including details about the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
Though it’s still unclear how long this crisis will continue—and what its full effect will be for automotive service businesses—we can get through this.