Business in a Post COVID-19 world
As I write this article in early May, I am hoping that by the time it hits your inbox, COVID-19 will be solidly in the rear-view mirror, and you will be experiencing some sense of normalcy and return to business as usual. All of that remains to be seen. Businesses are already fretting over how to hit the restart button, and what kind of regulatory hurdles they will encounter to demonstrate safe operation and due diligence. Company manuals will likely have to now include social distancing guidelines and explain measures to ensure the safety of both employees and customers alike.
Our industry is one that has limited “over the counter” operations, as most dealership activity takes place over the phone, or while visiting the customer’s place of business. This actually COMPLICATES the issues at hand. How can you prepare for the myriad of new rules and distancing requirements that will undoubtedly be an obstacle to gaining entry to new and old customers alike?
Understanding PPE requirements
From gloves to face coverings to full disposable coveralls, there will undoubtedly be requirements where your field service technicians will need to “suit up” in PPE equipment that will be confining and uncomfortable. It will be best to prepare them now by stocking the van with appropriate PPE, and metering these requirements into your daily work routine so that these items can be normalized over time. The earlier you start, the better it will be for your staff and your customers.
Not every customer site will have the same requirements. For this reason, it’s important to contact customers immediately after they restart operations to ascertain what is and is not required. Having this compliance data keyed into a customer file window that is visible during the dispatch or PM scheduling processes is vital to show up “ready”. The work orders issued to the technician should also visibly display this data so that they are aware of what the requirements are.
Many of you have already anticipated the needs, and have expanded your service offerings to include disinfecting equipment for customers. I expect that this will be an ongoing need in a post-COVID-19 world. It goes without saying that you will need to ensure that equipment decontamination is an integral part of all current service and repair processes. The customer, however, may require you to offer “stand-alone” decontamination on a weekly, daily, or pre-shift basis.
The sanitizing services I have seen in the marketplace already include the following:
Disinfectant applied (with a 10-minute rest) to all high touch areas (as per CDC guidelines):
- Overhead guard and grips or door handles
- Steering wheel, hydraulic and steering column control levers
- Dashboard, including key switch and emergency brake lever
- Dipstick pulls, covers and caps
- Hood, latches, seat, arm-rests, hip restraints
- LP tank brackets and couplers and hoses
- Battery connectors, vent caps, and cables (for electric units).
Although it is not yet a requirement in the USA, any spike in virus infections or (God forbid) the rise of another virus, may eventually require that your field personnel have some sort of health certification stating that they have tested positive for antibodies, or that they have been vaccinated against a particular virus.
This is being seriously considered in countries like Chile, Turkey, and the UK, especially in connection to the travel and hospitality industry. Although these measures are not required here (at this time), I would expect that eventual countermeasures may include this provision especially in companies that are a part of the food processing and distribution supply chain.
Although certification may possibly include some form of a certificate from a health testing organization, broader health safety measures don’t necessarily have to start there. This process could initially roll out with a company health and wellness statement that assures customers of the preventative measures taken for all field personnel. This could include a list of requirements enforced by the dealer prior to entering a customer facility.
- PPE, consistent with the customer’s needs
- Pre-shift or multiple hour body temperature logs
- Handwashing requirements
- Document handling (touchless delivery)
- Equipment decontamination (post-repair).
It would be smart to be ready to investigate and implement ways to be compliant with any certification requirement should it arise. If the virus fades, it may not be necessary. That said, COVID-19 will not be the last virus we will ever see. Having a contingency plan in place to offer this level of assurance to your customers will give you a decided advantage over your competitors.
Field service readiness
Yes, I am going to beat this drum again! Are your technicians READY to perform multiple service functions on a single visit, with the resources they currently have on the service van? Unless you equip your technicians will the tools to quote, close, and complete routine repairs ONSITE, return visits to the customer location will continue to hamper your effectiveness. Most dealers do not supply their technicians with these tools to use independently.
Life has changed. It’s hard enough to collect the proper PPE and jump through all of the hoops to get into the customer’s facility the first time. Coming back two or three times because the service department had to issue a quote for the repair, or the technician had to fetch parts he didn’t have in the van will only irritate your customer AND your technician. Your customer hates paying for return travel time anyway. Imagine when you add the time for multiple entry requirements. The bottom line is that you must be READY.
Being ready requires an investment in a meticulous analysis of the equipment population assigned to every field technician. It requires stocking parts on the van that are CONSISTENT with this analysis. It requires drafting pre-engineered menus of common repair items that are applicable to each make and model of equipment being serviced. This menu must detail the parts needed to complete the repair (including fluids, grease, and hardware). It must also include reasoned labor allowances, disposal costs, fees, and taxes.
RDS can supply this system for your service department if you don’t have the time or know-how to assemble this yourself. Either way, it’s an investment worth making.
Stay safe, stay ready, and let’s salvage what’s left of 2020!
To listen to Dave and Kevin Lawton on this month’s podcast, click here.
Dave Baiocchi is the president of Resonant Dealer Services LLC (RDS). He has spent 37 years in the equipment business as a sales manager, aftermarket director, and dealer principal. Dave now consults with dealerships nationwide to establish and enhance best practices, especially in the area of aftermarket development and performance. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contact Dave.