Despite the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, true leaders make careful, strategic and rational decisions for their businesses and people.
At car dealerships, associate care should be a top priority. How you treat sales managers, technicians, and customer-facing staff now can make or break your reputation as a company, well after the curve flattens and life resumes to a new sense of normalcy.
Respect Your Associates’ Health
I’m hearing from industry connections that some dealership technicians are fearful of entering vehicles on the service drive. Understandably, not knowing who was in the vehicle previously has many professionals feeling on edge.
How would you handle an employee who refused to enter a vehicle? Great leaders listen to the concerns of their employees, while poor leaders disregard them. Remember that part of your responsibility is to protect and reassure your people. Their health is in your hands, especially during this rapidly changing situation. It’s your job to really listen and put people at ease through proper safety precautions and oversight.
Implement New Policies
This may be obvious but be sure your dealership is following proper guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Implement respiratory etiquette procedures, as recommended by the CDC and follow their business response guidelines.
Give your staff – and customers, for that matter – gloves and masks to reduce their risk of sickness. Sit down with your technicians and let them know you’re doing everything possible to keep them healthy at work, and then defend your words with action.
Support Your Community
Many dealerships are finding creative ways to help their communities in crisis. The industry has a long history of stepping up when times are tough, and this global pandemic has proven to be no different.
As chief operating officer, it’s heartwarming to watch our NuVinAir franchisees partner with their local dealerships to provide free product and healthy vehicle treatments to first responders, medical professionals, and law enforcement agencies.
We’ve also seen dealerships partner with other essential frontline workers, including pharmacy and grocery professionals.
Not only is giving back the right thing to do, but it fosters a healthy dealership culture. Give your associates an opportunity to provide a shining light in their communities and watch their workplace satisfaction skyrocket.
Help Them Find New Roles
If you are forced into letting employees go due to financial challenges, support their career growth. Introduce them to people in your network who may be able to help. Offer outplacement services to position them for their next role.
Remember that you hired them in the first place, so it’s your responsibility to give them a hand during these unprecedented times. Check in with them weekly to see how their families are doing and let them know you are there to support them every step of the way.
In the end, your reputation as a leader rises and falls on how you treat people under your watch.
Yes, we are all stressed about meeting sales quotas and making payroll. Yes, there is constant uncertainty about when this crisis will end and what life will look like in its aftermath.
But treating your employees poorly will only add to your anxiety, as well as to that of those around you, in this temporary situation.
Work hard to build a culture that is based on caring service, not only for your customers, but for your associates. A compassionate environment breeds success and is a win-win for everyone. (Troy Blackwell, left)
Troy Blackwell is chief operating officer of NuVinAir Global, which offers a patented cleaning process, proprietary products and a franchisee network serving U.S. dealerships. A 20-year automotive-industry veteran, he previously worked for AutoNation and CarMax.