For obvious reasons now, the concept of essential and non-essential employees and remote workers has been thrust upon nearly every business in the world. Even though most dealerships are officially deemed essential businesses by the government, nervous workers are facing a dilemma: show up to work and risk infection, or stay home and risk layoffs.
For some employees, it is probably next to impossible to perform their job remotely. You can’t operate a service center with no employees, the body shop can’t be moved to a home, parts department still needs staff to pull and distribute parts, and test drives still need a chaperone.
But how much of your dealership could actually function remotely? We offer some suggestions below by department.
Your entire accounting department could work remotely if given proper device access (computers, phones, printers, etc.). Most documents can be scanned, and e-filed and other documents such as titles could be picked up and dropped off at the dealership daily or weekly.
Again, this is a department that can be moved home immediately, given proper access to take-home computer equipment, and proper internet access. Any approvals that need to happen at a level above the Department head can be made electronically.
Layoffs may happen at your dealership, so this is a department that might have to have some in-office days and work from home days. Any layoffs will need to happen face to face, usually with a witness to keep the dealership out of legal trouble from an employment lawsuit should one be filed against you.
If, on the other hand, your dealership is still hiring, you will need to continue to conduct interviews in person. Those can be scheduled in batches to eliminate entire days spent in the office.
Sales and Sales Management
Unless you are selling fleet only where customers don’t really need to see the vehicle or test drive it, this staff will need to report for work. There is just no way around it. However, you can and probably should cut back on staff on the floor. You could rotate days on and days off among the sales team. The Sales Manager will need to be there to help approve all deals.
As a secondary sales role and the final piece of the closed sale, F&I will need to be at the dealership, there is just no way around this.
Service And Service Advisors
The service department will have to continue to come in, but you may need to switch to a rotating shift with additional days off. Warranty work will still come in the doors for new cars sold since those repairs are essentially free for the owners, but elective repairs may slow down, leaving empty bays. Technicians are hard to find and retain, and you have a lot invested in their training. Do what you can to keep them working even if for fewer hours if at all possible. The same would go for Service Advisors. If the volume takes a dip, you may not need as many service advisors showing up each day. Consider alternate staffing options there.
Lot Management and Detailing
If you had to cut staff, this is an easy area to cut; however, the low pay will not save the dealership significant amounts of money. But mobile detailers may be the ticket to reducing staff at the dealership and reducing liabilities. You should consider a sanitization protocol and have your vendors follow it.
It’s a blessing that auto dealerships are considered essential during this time, but staffing and operations and knowing what to do is not so clear cut. Consider these tips as you develop your disaster continuation plans and best of luck.