Back to business: Car sales and service sanitation precautions to take

Posted by Sarah Pekala on May 18, 2020

States across the country are starting their phased process of reopening the economy. In many places, that means previously shut down dealership showrooms are opening their doors for the first time in months. Since the COVID-19 virus can survive on many types of surfaces, concerns about transmission has set new expectations for car cleanliness. As you get ready to get back to work, your customers expect a different kind of safety protocol for disinfecting cars—whether it’s for test drives or service appointments—and interacting with the public. So it’s important that you clearly communicate the steps you’re taking to keep them safe.

Customers’ expectations have changed

The pandemic has changed many aspects of the car buying and servicing process. According to our U.S. COVID Sentiment Study, car shoppers are more open to, and more likely to prefer, buying online since the spread of COVID-19. However, most still prefer buying in-person. Before the pandemic, 32% of car buyers were open to buying online. Now, 61% are.

image of percentage of car buyers who are open to buying a car online

Contactless sales services have also become a norm. 66% of those intending to buy in 2020 would prefer to use contactless services like virtual appointments with video tours of vehicles, private dealership appointments that allow for unaccompanied test drives, at-home test drives, and home delivery.

Beyond sales services, vehicle owners have new expectations for safer repair services. According to our survey, vehicle owners say they would feel more comfortable taking their car in for service if dealers:

  • Follow CDC sanitation guidelines for door handles, steering wheels, etc.: 66%
  • Are transparent about the steps they’re taking to address cleanliness: 55%
  • Have mechanics wear gloves and masks at all times: 51%
  • Offer contactless pickup and drop-off: 47%
  • Use plastic coverings for vehicle interiors: 43%

During this “new normal” transition, dealers who put customer-centric safety policies in place will build the trust that is critical to making sales right now.

Safety precautions you can take

While it’s not the primary means of transmission, physical contact is one way the coronavirus can spread, so you should focus your cleaning efforts on those areas that the driver and any passengers are likely to touch. Most of those areas are inside the car, but door handles, trunk and hood releases, and gas caps are exterior features worth extra attention. The CDC offers cleaning and disinfection guidelines for non-emergency transport vehicles that can point you in the right direction.

You can also use plastic coverings to cut down on cross contamination. A dealer in Dallas, Texas explained all the steps his dealership is taking to help customers feel safe when handing off their new vehicle. “The steering wheel is completely covered in plastic wrap. The seats are covered in plastic. The floor is lined in plastic. We take that all out and sanitize the entire interior, door handles, etc. It gives the customer peace of mind that the car is being delivered to them virus-free.”

Communicate your safety plan early and often

The circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis are forcing dealers to innovate. Many dealers have quickly adapted their usual processes and created new systems to communicate safety precautions when it comes to car sales and service. “It’s something dealers should always do, but we don’t always follow this best practice. We’ve become extremely customer-centric,” explains a dealer in Chicago. “It’s all about the customer—their comfort, what they want, and how they want to proceed in a transaction. It’s helped us ride the wave of this crisis.”

Here are a few immediate steps you can take now to build trust with your customers:

  • Update your lead follow-up templates with detailed information about contactless sales services you’re offering and details about sanitation precautions.
  • Create videos explaining the concrete steps your dealership is taking to keep customers safe. Share those videos through all your owned and paid (if you have the budget) media channels.
  • Regularly update your website and social media channels with details about process changes, whether it’s for remote sales or repair appointments. Customers want to know what to expect when they walk in your door.
  • If you can, offer every customer face masks, hand sanitizer, and other needed protective equipment when they visit your dealership.

Above all else, remember that many people are anxious about the unknown of the virus. Be empathetic and compassionate for any concerns customers may have. Trust comes when you clearly communicate all the steps you’re taking to keep them safe.

 

Topics: best practices, car buyers, contactless services, covid-19