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Bottleneck: The Current COVID-19 Marketplace

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Most bottlenecks that shop owners face have stayed pretty constant in the past few decades. Continuous improvement and development of technology, as well as strategic mindsets make the subject of bottlenecks—and how to tackle them—perpetually relevant. But this year a new, and particularly challenging bottleneck has arrived, and what makes this obstruction particularly unique is that it affects not only the repair industry, but the world at large.

Community transmission of COVID-19 was first detected in the United States in February of this year. Since then, every week brings new challenges and roadblocks to businesses across the country. How the virus has affected individual repair shops varies, but no shop has been left untouched.

As 2020 continues to push forward, so do the ways owners have been able to break through this unique bottleneck. Owners have developed new safety precautions and procedures as well as updated how they structure their business for their team and customers.

But the real challenge holding businesses back, and will continue to for the unseeable future, is how to bring customers into your shop during these uncertain times—where anxiety is at an all-time high, and team size and resources may be at an all-time low.


The Power of Social Media

Continuing to battle the current marketplace all comes down to being able to bring customers into the shop. If there are no customers, the bottlenecks discussed in the following pages will not arise—not because they have been broken through, but because there isn’t enough work to slow down any portion of the process.

With canceled events, lack of community presence, and less money in general, most avenues of typical marketing have been thrown out the window. But the audience of one important portion of marketing has grown: social media. According to eMarketer, up to 51 percent of US adults are using social media at higher rates during the pandemic.

Owners are using these (mostly) free platforms to post content to disseminate updated information and make sure their customers feel safe using their services. As a way to connect with customers during such an uncertain time, social media posts should be as personable as possible. Beyond posting any shop updates, other posts can include staff photos, fun and informative videos, activities to do at home, and other content meant to show the faces behind the business. These posts create a connection with customers and add a much needed sense of ease and trust, encouraging customers to enter your shop.

Social media can also provide a space for education opportunities that would typically take place in the shop. With customers spending as little time in the shop as possible—taking the time to explain and show needed maintenance to vehicle owners in-person has become a lot more difficult. This opportunity should be moved virtual, by putting out educational posts on car care and safe driving on multiple social platforms. Further connection and rapport can be built through screens outside the walls of your shop.


A Contactless Connection

Once customers are within the walls of your shop, how do you safely make the one-on-one connection to encourage them to return? At this point in time, all interactions with customers need to be contactless and sympathetic.

Customers are keeping their distance, smiles could be covered by masks and handshakes are out of the question. A majority of shops have also begun to offer pick-up and drop-off opportunities for customers, meaning you might never even see the client at all—making the entire interaction virtual. This is where smart use of technology comes into play.

Before the pandemic, owners were encouraged to incorporate customer education during a service. This could include sitting down with the client and explaining what needed to be repaired, or even bringing him or her to the back of the shop and physically showing them parts of their vehicle. In order to accomplish this same one-on-one connection, digital inspections have become more vital than ever before.

Being able to send customers a visual show-and-tell report of their vehicles acts as the much needed connection and education opportunity. To obtain the same effectiveness as in person conversations, digital inspection reports should include multiple clear and direct photos, along with videos if necessary. 

To open up distanced or virtual communication even further, follow-up calls, texts and emails are a must. This may be the only time you connect with customers in a direct conversation outside of muffled, quick conversations. These follow-ups allow for a deeper relationship, as well as an opportunity to address any issues that may have arisen.

Customers will always be the center of every business. Making them feel comfortable to come in and then come back will help break through this newly presented challenge.



Beyond COVID-19 

Soon, believe it or not, there will be systems put into place that will loosen the impact of the pandemic on the public. With this notion, it is easy to think that things will return back to normal—but is that really what we should be striving for? By addressing the domino effect of how COVID-19 has affected auto repair shops, a plethora of new strategies have been put into place. Some of these new strategies include more technology integration, creative marketing, and stringent shop procedures. Why should these come to an end when the pandemic does?

This time has also given owners the opportunity to think more critically about their business, and how their shop operates.

It’s difficult to think that there could be any positives coming out of the pandemic. However, as 2020 comes to an end, take a look at how your shop has changed for the better, and which changes you would like to keep as the years go by. 


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