There is no denying the COVID-19 era has changed how consumers behave. Now there can be lots of debate on how long the change will stay in effect, but for now and for the short term, I think we can agree these are different times. I think the question we should be asking ourselves is, you or your shop changing to meet the customer needs?

Many times we don’t like change or at least change makes many of us uncomfortable. The Automotive industry is used to change, every year there are new makes and new models that enter our bays and we have to constantly change the ways we service our customer’s vehicles. Unfortunately, what we face today may be more complicated than a technology change, we’re talking about changes in customer expectations. These expectations will affect both how we service customers, and how we service the vehicle.

Customer Interactions:
It wasn’t that long ago, we were all trying to make our waiting rooms look like an upscale coffee shop. We added a customer Wi-Fi networks, a coffee bar and a place for them to get some work done while their vehicles were being serviced. We wanted to create an environment where the customers and even their children didn’t want to leave from. Today we have implemented curbside drop offs and contactless interactions to try to keep our staff and our customers safe. I believe the important thing is to stay flexible. Without a crystal ball, it is hard to predict what’s going to happen over the next six to twelve months but I would encourage shops to be as nimble as possible and service the customer in the way they want to be serviced. Today many of us have bought goods to be delivered through no human contact and with so many people working from home and using technology more than ever to communicate and work, this could have a lasting effect on how they choose to do business. The good news is, there are a variety of companies that offer platforms that easily allow customers, to schedule appointments, approve work and pay for their repairs. Whether you are a single shop or need an enterprise solutions there is a platform that fits you.

Many Americans have been financially impacted and many have less discretionary spending than they did 6 months ago. When their vehicle is in your bay, they are counting on you to give them trusted advice on their repair. Your conversation should include three areas; what is “ok” or good with their vehicle, what is required to be serviced and what items you are suggesting for service in the future. This approach sets up a vehicle service plan that fits the car and the customer.

Vehicle Service:
Throughout  the next couple of months, our industry will be in a unique position. Gas prices are low and with many afraid travel by air, customers are going to be planning more road trips this summer than we have seen in a long time. This is a great opportunity for you to gain new customers and add additional visits from existing customers. You may want to ask yourself, does this opportunity warrant a change in my operational process? One of the first things I would l consider is your inspection form. Does your current inspection forms cover the necessary items to ensure a customer’s vehicle will make it to their destination? Are your service writers talking to the customer’s about their summer plans? This may be a great opportunity to gain some information about their road trip so you can ensure items like tires, steering and suspension components, battery and other critical components are inspected.

Are there new services you should consider? Many companies have recently come out with disinfecting solutions and this may be something you want to add to your service portfolio. This could be helpful in our current environment and it could also be part of your seasonal packages. With any elective service, it is import to explain to a customer exactly what the service is and what the desired outcomes are. It is also important to never use scare tactics when suggesting services.

I have always believed automotive repair shops have been a staple in their communities and are a big reason the community keeps moving forward and now is no different. We have the ability to be heroes when that family that has been home for months and arrives at their destination to finally relax and not worry for a couple of days. Are you ready to be a hero?

— Jeffrey Cox