How 4 Texas Dealers Are Rethinking Operations During COVID-19

We've received some questions from dealers about what other Texas dealers are doing during this time ...
We've received some questions from dealers about what other Texas dealers are doing during this time to help keep their employees and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. TIADA reached out to a few independent dealers to hear from them about some of their experiences and ideas for addressing some of the challenges they have faced.
Be Ready To Adapt, Still Be ‘Available' To Customers
Greg Reine with Auto Liquidators in Dallas says one of the biggest challenges during this time is breaking habits their staff and customers are used to practicing. “We're used to following the same guidelines we've had for years. [With the current situation], be ready to rewrite policies and procedures on the fly.” 
In lieu of face to face communication, Auto Liquidators has been working with its staff to rethink how they can still make themselves “available” to their customers. Reine says the dealership is still very focused on providing good customer service: “You don't want to offend anyone. Show them you care, just in a different way.” To demonstrate this, Reine says communicating to staff and customers--so they understand the current situation, what new procedures are in place and why—is key.
For example, customers are being asked to complete and submit their paperwork online. Some customers may not know how to do this, and so this may require that the staff be prepared to educate these customers on how to capture images of paperwork with their phones or other devices. “You don't think about that stuff, the ability to communicate.” Reine added that it's important to be empathetic to customers who may not have access to the same communication channels as your business. 
Accepting Payments: 
While the dealers we visited with are encouraging customers to make payments off-site (by phone, mobile app or online for example), dealerships are sometimes still faced with the challenge of customers stopping by in person to make payments. 
In response to this, Austin Hunter, owner of Speedway Motors, a buy-here, pay-hear dealership whose customers are primarily on bi-weekly payment schedules, shared that they have taken measures to sterilize cash payments and reduce cross-contamination. “One of our staff meets the customer outside with a new pair of gloves and collects the payment, while another staff member provides the customer their receipt. All of the bills are individually wiped down with a water/bleach solution allowing the bills to air dry or use a heat gun/blow dryer.”
Cleaning supplies can be hard to come by in some areas, so Vicki Davis says A-OK Auto Sales in Porter, Texas has decided to no longer allow customers to enter their building. “If they want to make a cash payment, we have a note on our door to call us to pay by phone. The sign also reads ‘if you don't have a phone, honk your horn, and we'll come out'.” The employee steps outside with gloves, takes payment and returns with receipt.
Rethinking Your Workspace
Reducing the number of customers indoors can be a challenge, but Carlos Ido's team at Carnaval Auto Credit in Dallas got creative with collecting
payments by thinking how they could use their work area differently.  “There's a window that opens and closes in the building. We took the collector and her computer and set her up near that window, and now she's taking payments through the window—that way people don't have to go through the lobby. It really made our collectors feel safer.”
In an effort to minimize the amount of time customers spend indoors, Reine with Auto Liquidators shared that they had originally tried using caution tape and rope to discourage customers from sitting in chairs. However, customers were still finding a way around the tape, so they have since moved furniture out of the way where it's simply not accessible. They have also marked with tape the appropriate distance in front of the teller window and sectioned off sales from service to better control the flow of traffic indoors.
Ideas for Repair /Service Centers:
Ido and Reine shared some changes they have implemented to their service/repair departments, some of which include:
Service limited to drop-off only
Requesting that customers remove personal belongings from the vehicle before servicing
Allowing only one person, the owner of the vehicle, to enter and drop off; posting a sign on the outside gate to inform customers of policy.
Using disposable steering wheel and seat covers; protects the mechanic and owner of vehicle
Prioritize major work, transmission and motor issues, for instance. “We focus on major work so we can get people back in their vehicles,” added Ido.

Some dealers are limiting the number of people onsite by requiring customers to schedule an appointment in advance. Photo courtesy of Carnaval Auto Credit.


By: Phillip O Lathrop
On: 04/10/2020 08:07:35
Thanks for the updates. It's important for all dealers to know what others are doing. It would get easy to feel isolated right now. As usual Jeff Martin and the TIADA remind us we are not alone, but an association.

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