As auto dealers and other small businesses maneuver through COVID-19 stress, it’s important to look for ways to safeguard cash, control expenses and protect inventory, facilities and computers.
Companies also need to innovate and find new ways to do business, including adding pickup and delivery services, enabling customers to buy your products from home and updating websites and social media accounts.
“We don’t know how long this is going to last,” so everyone needs to be prepared, said Tim Gavin, a NADA 20 Group dealership management consultant.
Gavin gave out more than a dozen ideas during the National Automobile Dealers Association’s April 10 webinar on “The Best Ideas from NADA 20 Groups in Times of Covid-19 Stress.” NADA expects to host this webinar every Friday to post the best ideas from the week.
While the advice is geared towards auto dealers, any small business can convert the idea to work well for their business.
To safeguard cash, Gavin suggests thinking about cashier checks or floorplan swaps with dealers and monitoring contracts in transit.
“Consider putting everything you can on a floorplan,” he said. “(And remember,) every deal should be funded in three days.”
Businesses should also rethink 401k matches, lock up their toilet paper and other needed products so they don’t disappear, and collect money from companies and consumers that owe them money.
“Small businesses are closing because they have no cash flow,” Gavin said. “Talk to your parts manager to see who’s stockpiling parts. Who will be a problem when collecting your bills? Look at your C.O.D. (cash on delivery) policy. Are they more than 30 days late? Who’s responsible for collecting this?”
As some dealers have less employees now actually on the business site, protecting your inventory is key, Gavin said.
Make sure you arrange security and include hourly physical inventory checks for both new and used vehicles. Make sure vehicle doors, and key cabinets, are securely locked.
“Some dealers have said thieves are stealing catalytic converters from cars on their lots,” Gavin said. “Talk to your local police department to see if they’re available” for security checks.
Retrieve loaner/rental vehicles before closing and provide signage for delivery drivers on where to drop vehicles and keys.
If your dealership is laying people off, make sure to protect your facility. Gavin suggests immediately changing the locks and security codes, as well as updating security cameras.
“This will be an investment, but it will save a lot of money in the long term,” he said. “It could be a problem” with rogue ex-employees. You want to make sure these employees no longer have access to your business.
If you need to close your dealership showroom, along with laying off employees, make sure you back up your computers, change the security codes and update the security administration privileges. Unplug all office computers, securely store the technology, if possible, and lock up all supplies, Gavin said.
Finding new ways to do business amid social distancing will keep your company going.
Digital Air Strike provides the technology and training needed to help dealers sell their vehicles online, provide “white glove” no-contact pickup and delivery services and use video to showcase vehicle features and the dealership. Besides video, the tech includes AI, social media and automation to sell and service.
Through Digital Air Strike’s Virtual Retailing Program and Video Logix product, dealers can send video messages to car buyers with information about the vehicles they’re interested in so they can shop from home.
Dealers and other small businesses can use video to explain that the dealership is open, safe and offers delivery. Video can also be used to explain service orders and share DIY service tips with customers.
When enabling customers to buy your vehicles from home, dealers need to make sure how to handle trade appraisals, credit approvals and payments, Gavin said.
“The ability to complete a transaction online and deliver the vehicle remotely depends on state and local regulations,” Gavin said. “Before attempting to sell vehicles online, dealers must consult with their attorney or state/metro dealer association or licensing authority to better understand the requirement in their state.”
Monitoring and posting on social media are also important since everybody is home and looking online. Gavin said your dealership “better be on Facebook because that’s what everybody is looking at right now.” He also says to make sure to “communicate, communicate, communicate” with customers.
“Dealerships should work with their attorneys to ensure social media posts and advertising comply with state and federal consumer protection laws,” said Gavin, adding if you sanitize your dealership and vehicles, don’t say, for example, “We’re COVID proof.”
Post an “Ask me anything” button on your website which connects immediately with your general manager. Make sure it’s available 24/7 and provide immediate response to any customer inquiry, Gavin said.
Digital Air Strike provides award-winning social media, reputation management, lead response and AI-powered chat to more than 5,000 dealers. The company’s AI-powered chat, Response Path, communicates with customers on multiple channels, 24/7, asks/answers questions and captures lead detail. Dealers today especially need the tool to provide better customer service with limited staffing.
Digital Air Strike has developed a suite of solutions to help businesses during the pandemic, including video, AI, social media and automation. Many of these services are offered free to businesses. Learn more here: https://digitalairstrike.com/virtual-retailing .
Visit NADA’s website for recordings of this and past webinars: https://www.nada.org/coronavirus/webinars/.
Digital Air Strike also hosts regular webinars to help dealers keep their businesses open during the pandemic. https://digitalairstrike.com/webinars/
Take a 10-minute demo and find out how you can get Video Logix video technology free for 30 days. https://digitalairstrike.com/get-demo/