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Inspect What You Expect: Effectively Implementing Pandemic Protocols

Consistent Safety Measures Are Key To Dealership Performance During COVID-19

As we’re learning in 2020, living through a pandemic means our most basic daily activities, from grabbing groceries to meeting up with friends, can feel fraught with risk. In a recent study conducted by the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 25% of participants have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression since the onset of COVID-19. So, there’s no getting around the fact that planning a trip to the dealership is also another source of anxiety for customers.

While you can’t control the way customers feel about their personal safety during a global pandemic, you can control how they feel about your business within the current landscape. By following public health recommendations and best practices to develop and implement your own COVID-19 pandemic protocol, you can effectively mitigate customer concerns. On the flipside, dropping the ball when it comes to customer safety could hurt your chances of securing their loyalty and repeat business.

Cut out uncertainty by setting expectations

While defining a plan is an essential first step to implementing successful safety measures, it’s equally important to educate staff on how to follow protocol, communicate with customers about what steps you’re taking to ensure their safety, and evaluate the effectiveness of the policies and procedures you’ve introduced.

Let’s look closer at each of these areas to break down everything your dealership needs to know to give customers maximum peace of mind during an uncertain time.

Define your COVID-19 safety measures

Our customer survey results show that, for respondents who feel unsafe visiting dealerships right now, the most mentioned issue was that staff were inconsistent in terms of how they were wearing or using PPE, with some not wearing any PPE at all.

While opinions continue to vary on how to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19, we now have more detailed recommendations from public health on how to stay safe than we did months ago. Social distancing, wearing masks, regular sanitizing, frequent hand-washing, and using other personal protective equipment (PPE) should all factor into your plan.

Be sure to consider these key questions when creating your pandemic protocol:

  • Who should be wearing masks and PPE? Consider customer-facing versus back office employees, keeping in mind that staff need to protect each other, as well as customers.
  • Where do hand sanitizing stations need to be installed? Ensure they are easily accessible in key customer areas.
  • How are clients greeted when entering your showroom or service department? Prepare all paperwork in advance whenever possible and post signage providing clear rules for customers and staff to follow.
  • Do you need to rearrange your space? Make sure offices, waiting areas and other spaces are compliant with social distancing recommendations.
  • What is your vehicle delivery process for car sales? Keep in mind the need to sanitize all high-touch surfaces and maintain airflow.
  • What is your vehicle delivery process following a service appointment? Make sure the vehicle is disinfected and ready for pickup with minimal interaction between staff and the customer. Ideally, get the customer to review all service items electronically before they arrive at the dealership and settle the invoice in advance.

Implementing your pandemic safety measures will require investing some time and money, but it’s an important way to show customers that you care for their safety – and it will pay off in the long run. By going the extra mile, your customers will reward you with their loyalty.

Educate staff

Since June, dealerships are seeing a decrease in performance when it comes to customer satisfaction in key areas, including waiting areas (-6.8%), washing and sanitizing customer vehicles (-3.9%), and test drives (-1.3%).

While it’s likely that many dealerships have new safety processes in place, part of the problem may be attributed to inconsistent adherence by staff. In order for every customer that walks through your door to feel safe, your dealership needs to present a united front. And that means all employees need to follow a single, consistent set of rules, rather than each person having their own way of doing things.

Establishing consistency and achieving compliance with a completely new way of doing things doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a concerted effort that includes educating employees about how the safety measures impact their job. Here are some tips:

  • Hold all-staff meetings to review the protocol and make sure everyone understands what is expected of them. This ensures everyone gets the same information.
  • Keep the lines of communication open so everyone has an opportunity to ask questions and get clarification about the new policies and procedures.
  • Make it clear to your staff that you won’t tolerate any exceptions or excuses when it comes to breaches of protocol. Like other job responsibilities, following these rules is a requirement for being successful. Keeping customers safe is non-negotiable.

Communicate with customers

During times of uncertainty, having clear, up-to-date information can help people feel secure and in control. The more customers know about what you’re doing to keep them safe, the more comfortable they’ll feel making the trip to your dealership.

Communicate clearly and comprehensively about your pandemic protocol through all regular channels, including email, social media, physical signage and individual conversations with customers, whether over the phone or in person. Customers want to know exactly what you’re doing to keep them safe, including your rules around PPE, sanitizing, physical distancing, and so on.

Evaluate effectiveness

As a dealership, you’re well-acquainted with the importance of measuring performance at regular intervals to ensure you’re meeting customer expectations and sales targets. The same applies to your COVID-19 safety measures: inspect what you expect on a daily basis.

Managers should make it a part of their daily routine to assess how effectively employees are adhering to protocol. Consider these methods for keeping compliance levels high:

  • Hold regular all-staff meetings (daily or weekly) to discuss what the team is doing well and what needs to be improved. Encourage team members to take ownership of safety expectations by sharing their ideas and observations, too.
  • Implement a zero-tolerance rule for non-compliance. Staff not following protocol should be immediately written-up to make it clear that there is no room for carelessness.
  • Check in with customers on a daily basis. Ask visitors in the showroom and service center if their expectations are being met and what you can improve upon, if anything.

Perhaps the biggest factor impacting performance at dealerships right now is customer anxiety around safety. Dealerships that up their game to keep customers safe will be rewarded with repeat business and ongoing customer loyalty. And those that fail to take public health concerns seriously could see their customers walking away for good.

By creating a solid plan, educating staff, communicating with customers and evaluating effectiveness regularly, you can stay on the right side of customer safety and satisfaction.

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