The government is now telling us that we may not be getting back to normal for weeks or months, whatever that new normal is going to look like. Dealerships are adapting the sales process, pivoting on a dime in transition to ‘buy from home’ processes. From everything we know, an enhanced digital retailing journey is preferred by customers, albeit a completely dealership-free sale isn’t the intention. But sales can make it work.
What about the service department? The typical service experience has dozens of customers arriving at the service drive daily. In today’s ‘social distancing’ requirements, it certainly isn’t easy to maintain your personal space in a busy department. So, what’s a service department to do now?
First and foremost is your team’s health and that of your customers. Your service department can’t help anyone at all if you experience an outbreak. Anyone who has symptoms, has recently traveled, or is caring for a sick person should be encouraged to stay home for the recommended self-isolation period of 14 days (unless that changes).
You may wish to switch to an appointment-only structure for better control of traffic volume in the dealership. An appointment allows customers to maintain the appropriate distance for your safety and theirs as they aren’t jockeying for position in a queue.
There are definitely restrictions for what’s permissible by insurance companies and regulations. However, if a customer’s appointment doesn’t require them to step out of their car, it could help retain the capacity to service more vehicles. For example, does your express oil change bay have a pit rather than a hoist? It could be repurposed during certain hours or days for more intensive work that allows the customer to stay in their car. Or, if work can be completed on the floor in the shop, the same can be true.
Most dealers offer service pickup in some capacity already. It’s a great way to keep the dealership’s service department open. NADA is advocating to government to consider automotive retail and service as an essential service – cars will need fixing and required services, even if it’s less frequent for the moment.
Consider moving to a vehicle pick-up and drop-off structure on a limited basis. Here’s what it could look like:
The drop-off/pick-up structure isn’t cost-effective en masse, that’s for sure. In these extenuating circumstances, the goal should probably be refocused to providing an income for your team members ad serving your clients as long as possible. That may even mean aiming for the break-even point or taking a loss to make it happen.
We’re in the business of serving customers and keeping the world moving, physically and economically. Let’s prove it in the coming weeks and months.