Navigating COVID-19 as a Shop Owner
April 15, 2020 / Community News
This is an unprecedented time for shop owners—and unfortunately there's no manual for how to cope with a global pandemic such as the one we're facing in the wake of COVID-19. While this is indeed a stressful time, and the normal daily operations of your shop have come to a screeching halt, there are ways to survive, cope, and make the most of this once in a lifetime occurrence.
Make Sure Everyone is Safe
Above all, our number one priority are those we care about—our families, friends, staff and neighbors. First and foremost, this means conducting business differently—namely, reducing contact as much as possible. Consider the following:
- Close the waiting room and implement drop off service: To reduce human-to-human contact as much as possible, begin enforcing a drop off/pick up only procedure.
- Disinfecting procedures: Institute a disinfecting protocol for all vehicles that come into your shop. Have employees wear masks and gloves and wipe down frequently touched items— handles, steering wheel, gear shift, etc. Don't be afraid to communicate with customers that they should keep their car as clutter free right now to avoid a hassle for your team.
Digital Tools to Bridge Social Distancing
- Online appointment scheduling: Streamline the ability for customers to make appointments by offering online appointment scheduling through your website.
- Paperless documents: Even with social distancing measures in place, the more areas you can reduce contact, the better. Eliminating paper transferred within the shop and to the customer is ideal. Invoices and repair orders done digitally can reduce any unnecessary spread.
- Texting: Communicate with customers instantly via text. This can be done from PCs or mobile phones and tablets. Coordinate pickups/drop-offs, appointments, invoices, and more.
- Digital payment procedure: Relying on programs that are set up for secure digital payment is key. Take advantage of e-transfers, or other encrypted programs. Our Text To Pay product encrypts user data, helping your customer to feel more secure than providing information over the phone.
Get The Word Out
Due to the reduced volume of business during this outbreak, you may find yourself adjusting your normal operating hours. Some have started shortening hours, or only opening every other day. Whatever changes you have made need to be communicated with customers. We recommend you update:
- Google My Business: This is important as people will be searching to see which businesses are still open and when. If your hours/days have indeed changed, make sure this is reflected on your Google My Business page.
- Your Website: Make sure your site displays schedule changes as well. In addition, it would be a good idea to explain your procedural changes, so customers are informed before they arrive.
- Facebook: Many of your customers are likely spending more time on their social media accounts in order to keep up with the daily news updates—don't neglect this way to communicate with your base.
- Yelp For Business: Consider updating your hours on your Yelp business page. Anywhere your customers can find information on your shop should reflect the right hours.
Get Your Business the Help It May Need
On April 3rd, the Small Business Association (SBA) began offering loan options for business owners. The Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) gives a loan to businesses in order to cover personnel and operations costs. This loan is to be used for payroll, utilities, rent, interest on mortgage, etc. Other options include the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, SBA Express Bridge Loans, and SBA Debt Relief. You can find more information on the Small Business Association's Website. Layoffs might seem like your only option right now, but in many cases the SBA help can see you through the worst of this crisis. Hold on to those skilled techs because there's a chance they may not return when business picks back up.
In addition, keep in mind your customers are likely struggling as well, many have been laid off or furloughed and are suffering financially at this time. Consider offering financing options for your customers to make their repair or maintenance costs more manageable.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the frightening news we're hearing every day right now. Our normal lives and businesses have been interrupted in such a short time, with no real warning to prepare for the reality we are now facing.
However, optimism is a key tool in your toolbox, and it's a powerful one. Use this time to analyze your processes and procedures to see if there are any issues that you need to hammer out, but never have the time to. See if there are any training opportunities you could take advantage of. Spruce up the shop, reorganize the repair bay, repaint the waiting room. This current crisis won’t last forever, so make the most out of a bad situation and focus on a brighter future.
The BOLT ON team is ready to assist with any questions or provide guidance regarding training or product use so you can get through this era of social distancing more easily.