No one could foresee this coming, as my wife said it’s like 911, you watch it on TV yet can’t do anything right now as an individual, except stay home. All Businesses current ‘Crisis Management Plans’ failed, the best planners in the world didn’t see it coming, nor Governments, huge companies, Dictators, Boards, Religions, or Psychics (Where was Tyler Henry when we needed him?!) and the list goes on. The only guys/gals who saw it coming were the ones with the Bomb Shelters in the desert. They were stocked up ready for anything. They had plenty of guns, toilet Rolls and Baked Beans … but no hand sanitiser and face masks! Funny that they got it so wrong, as it was a bug not a bomb, so they couldn’t shoot it!

Being serious now, we only have to look overseas to thank our Government and Health people, including the front line, for where we are currently at right now. It is like watching 911 all over again seeing COVID-19 explode across Europe and America, as we sit helpless and frightened wondering how it will unfold in our part of the world. All we can do is wait and trust.

Here is where you are at, all the business concerns you had a month or two ago have gone and have been replaced with a whole set of new ones (This can apply to your personal life as well).

The current economy has gone, never to be seen again, a new economy is coming, our countries in debt like never before and no IMF to save us, like in 1997, with the Asian financial crisis. (I saw it all in Seoul, Korea, a city of 10 million; I had never seen it quieter than then with its empty freeways.) I have never seen anything like the tenacity of the Koreans pulling themselves out of that mess, and I only hope we can be as single-minded as they were in saving their country.

Summit Automotive

If you have been laid off or feel you have failed, you may experience some or all of the 5 stages of grief, the list below may help you identify where you’re at:

  • Denial and Isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

More detail in the link below if you need to understand these stages fully.

So, what is on the other side of COVID-19?
  • A possible recession if your government can’t stop it.
  • Customers may not behave the same as they once did.
  • Customers will still be scared until vaccination is available worldwide.
  • Customers will be traveling less, resulting in fewer kilometers/miles.
  • Customers may have less money.
  • The car may slip down the list of financial priorities.
  • There may be less Customers overall.
  • Customers may not service their vehicles, or they may go elsewhere for a better deal.
  • In a recession, older cars will require repair, at this time know your independent competition as they will be circling above your Customers, or perhaps they will all rush back to your Dealership for vehicle servicing?
Summit Automotive

Points well worth some consideration.

Firstly, what is your Lead Generation System? That’s an easy one, so hopefully it has not lapsed so far.

You have three Lead Generation Systems:

The Customer Reminder System, this should be perfect; you already know the Customer so all you have to do is invite them back for Service. Easy peasy don’t you reckon?! Goes like this, ‘We are open again for business! Come back, everything is fixed!’

  1. The second system: When you find vehicles that require additional work, you need to convert/sell it to the client to assist in keeping their vehicle in tip top condition. Easy peasy don’t you reckon?!
  2. Thirdly, is finding new Customers via your Marketing Funnel – very trendy hey, the Funnel is in fashion again right now in business; everyone will try and sell you the perfect Funnel to drive people/traffic to your business via the internet or other means. Simple, don’t you reckon?!

All depends on whether COVID-19 packs its bag and goes back to that place where all the viruses go, that is, back to the virus families like COVID 18,20 21 etc. 19′s Dad and Mum will be ever so proud of their little hairy progeny, as COVID-19 is now a superstar in their murky world.

When COVID-19 has said bye-bye, your business will live happily ever after as its all back to normal, easy don’t you reckon?

  • A perfect Reminder System
  • A perfect Driveway/Counter system
  • A perfect Work-found/follow-up System
  • You attract new clients like crazy.
  • Financially you will be a model operation with all these Customers returning.

When all those Customers arrive, both new and existing, you will have the perfect operation to handle this crowd that will descend on your driveway, forever.

There is a thing we learn about in Communications, called ‘NOISE’. When NOISE gets in the way of our marketing message, it results in the Customer not being able to hear us. Here is an example:

My local Dealer sent me a text saying my wife’s car was due for service. I usually look after this, not because I am a chauvinist, but because servicing cars does not interest her at all, so I quite happily assume responsibility for this task, with the added bonus of it being interesting research for me!

Here were my thoughts when the reminder Text came in:

  • Oh, I did not know they (The Dealer) were open. Is it really due? I checked the Service Book, and yes, it was due, wow. That seemed like less than a year??
  • How much will it cost was my next thought, as we, like everyone, have reduced company and personal spending, no Government assistance for small consulting companies in Australia.
  • Who will be touching and driving our little car when it is on-site and, do they have the virus? We have no way to check this.
  • They say they will sanitise the car, will they really? How will they do this, who will do it, and will anyone drive it after sanitation is complete?
  • My wife and I are not keen at all, to have it there in the Dealership being worked on and driven by several people unknown to us, additionally; the parking is poor so there are lots of vehicles being constantly relocated at that site.

The above was just us (regular Customers), with a very young vehicle. Are you able to see how the COVID-19 NOISE is getting in the way of this communication coming from the Dealer end? Also, how COVID-19 Noise is getting in the way of the Customer return communication to the Dealer, as we are thinking, ‘No thanks, we will wait until this is over.’

So, here are clues on where to start, is has to be with the Call Centre or with your staff who take the bookings and it can’t be the same as it was. Everyone will have to be trained to rebuild the way we communicate. This retraining is to restore Customers trust, so they have the confidence to deal with us again. NOISE removal!

Once you have the booking, the “building trust” continues onto the Driveway or Counter. All the distancing rules have to be in place, it may mean driveway is gone, or counter goes. Everything must be clear with a fully explained handout for the Customer (presented in a sterile cover) on how he/she will be protected when the vehicle is collected.

You can also provide a pickup and delivery service, however, think carefully first:

  • Do drivers employed by the Dealership have COVID-19 Health and Safety training.
  • Will the current driving SOP, include virus protection? (Maybe protective kit, masks etc.).
  • Are they the right people to be face to face with the most valuable thing in our business, the Customer?
  • What training will you provide for this group of drivers? (Customer training and Sanitization training).
  • Will the drivers keep the rules? Freedom is a fickle thing, very tempting to grab a coffee from McDonalds when the boss is not around?
  • The newly sanitized vehicle must be re-sanitized on delivery to the Customer preferable in visual range of the customer. Can you trust the driver to do this and is there a written process/checklist?
  • Will this expose our equally valuable staff to the virus, for example on vehicle pick-up and face to face dealings with the Customer? We must protect our employees.
  • Are your drivers in the high-risk health age groups, or do they suffer any underlying health concerns, for example asthma?

Financially we cannot just ignore the money. Car Sales will need our business contribution, it is back to basics, we still have to run efficiently, and the answer to this is to build a resource-based budget and run the business with a daily performance against the Budget System. The Government has two sides to their planning, the health of the population and the financial impact on the nation. We are no different we also have this delicate management task and it will not be easy. You have heard of Parts and Service absorption, here we are at the gate that it was designed for, which is to sustain the business through bad times.

Next up, the “I’ve lost my job’ Customer Scenario”: “This has never happened before, this is the first time in my life I have been without work, I’m scared/panicked somewhat, so I can’t go on spending.”

In the above scenario, the vehicle servicing comes in a long way down the list, way after, Food, School Fees & Winter Uniforms, Water, Electricity, Rent, Car Registration, Rates & Taxes………………. (The small independent garage down the road with one guy working there looks easier and he will also disinfect the car for me, while I watch) Personal Note: ‘Our car will wait, just an oil change for it, I will do it at home rather that risking it at the Dealer.’

Okay, assume you’re past the hurdle of getting the Customer in, and the technician finds the front pads need replacing and a CV Boot has gone. Advice; doing these jobs on the day is better than trying to get the Customer back another day. Observe the Funnel, starting from the top wide end:

  1. Discover the Fault/Repair
  2. Engagement by calling the Customer with a quote (Triage in some cases)
  3. Consideration by the Customer
  4. Conversion/Go Ahead with the repair.

This will probably not be as easy due to Customers now watching costs.

Finally, the third type of Customer, that is the ones being marketed to, the ones you have never seen before. Advice: forget it!! This is the time to hold and love the ones you have now. You will still see plenty of recall Customers, show them how good you are and give them a complimentary Traffic Light Check Sheet check and place them gently in the Funnel.

I have been to many video training sessions on the internet over the past few weeks when I was isolated, very interesting. So many are dragging out all the rubbish that never worked before this happened; however, others are excellent and have some excellent recovery strategies. The one I liked the best was from Cardone University regarding ‘Change’. Change comes from the old barter system; it means if you acquire something new you must forfeit something in its place or give something away, that is why change is so difficult in business. We don’t like giving stuff away even if it does not work that well. (Change examples: If you go to Fast Service you will be super-efficient though you may have to let a Technician go as the shop will be more efficient overall. If you go to Customer vehicle Pick-up and Delivery you will have happier Customers yet increased Expenses) Always consider the pluses and minuses of changes in business.

So be assured that we are moving into a time of change. We will have to operate differently (Process), Customers will be different, we may have less staff, we will think unlike we have done before COVID-19, tax may be higher after this to pay for what happened. Our freedom will be curtailed. Hygiene will continue to matter, the money will be tight, air travel will make us nervous and become expensive, the government may become unsteady if they make mistakes, some will give up and change their lives completely. Famous businesses we knew all our lives will disappear; recent beautiful clear blue skies in our cities tell us all what we have been doing to this planet where we live. The family is appreciated more than ever before, and our kids will be talking about this time in history long after we have all departed. You can add to this list.

This is only a small portion of what we must do; however, it is a start. I am on-board for the business ride, and the changes can be good for all of us as we transition out of this very long tunnel.

Note: ‘Nothing happens without a Customer, or staff, so we have two dependencies’, this simple statement shows us a starting point for of the above written thoughts. Never give a Customer or a Staff member a reason to leave your business as you are nothing without both. (Regarding Staff, Dale Carnegie said something like, “there is Gold in everyone we just have to mine for it.”

“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”

Dale Carnegie

“Men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt-one goes in looking for the gold.”

Dale Carnegie

Bob Moss International Business Coach