For me, the theme of 2020 has been “change.”
That’s the environment we’re in right now at my shops: Things are weird, they’re different, but business hasn’t completely come to a halt. Things are just changing.
Right now, in my neck of the woods—Anchorage, Ak.—we’re finally starting to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business. We’re starting to see a slowdown right now, although we usually do during this time of year, to a large extent.
Whereas tourism typically drives a lot of the claims during summer months, that’s not happening this year. We have no tourism up here at all right now. Yet, the locals are getting out much more. So, things are different, but business is starting to come back.
One silver lining during the coronavirus pandemic: This slight slowdown has given my staff time to reflect on our processes. And we’ve learned that there are a few habits we’ll never rely on again.
One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that the way we communicate has changed very, very quickly into a digital model. Whether we communicate through Podium, or CCC, or even by email, it has really changed quite a bit from what I expected. The amount of time that it took for us to go to almost no face-to-face communication with customers happened overnight. And I don’t believe that it’s going to go back. I think the idea of us doing photo estimating and communicating by text or email is probably going to stick, though photo estimating technology still needs to improve a bit.
It’s amazing: the shift in technology that might’ve taken five years just happened in about two months.
We’ve made one particularly large switch that I think the Coronavirus pandemic probably pushed us toward. At our biggest repair facility we’re going to be open seven days a week. We’re going to do split shifts with our admin staffers.
Traditionally our shops have been open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but we know that a lot of accidents happen on the weekends, and a lot of customers want to deal with it in a timely manner. So, now our staff is going to work four “10s”; during the week our hours of operation are going to be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. , and on the weekends they’re going to be from about 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. It makes sense to me, because half the time employees were staying until 6 anyway, because customers get done with work at 5 and usually want to pick up their car right away.
So, we started that new schedule in early July. Our goal is to perfect this new schedule during the remaining summer weeks, which, for us, are usually pretty slow. That way, when the winter comes, we’re rocking and rolling.
I can tell you this: Aside from the occasional tweak here or there, we’re not going to turn back.
One part of our staff will work Sunday through Wednesday, and the other part will work Wednesday through Saturday, so each of them get a three-day weekend with one weekend day in there.
My employees came up with this scheduling change during the springtime. I think the Coronavirus pandemic made us look at things and say “Look, let’s do it now, when we’re usually seeing a reduction in claims. Why don’t we just build it into the schedule, and build in some quality of life at the same time?”
As a shop owner, that’s change I can embrace.