Soldiering Through Tough Times by Rick Hatswell

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rick hatswell craftsman collision portrait
Rick Hatswell, President, Craftsman Collision Photo: Courtesy Craftsman Group of Companies

It’s a pretty different world we’re living in these days. Luckily, here in British Columbia, people in our industry have continued to work.

Overall, we’ve been able to maintain a steady 80 percent volume. Our mantra has been to protect the employees and the company. We’ve made sure everyone’s working, and they’re healthy and safe. And we’ve also had to protect our company to make sure we don’t go into the red and need to close locations.

It’s been our hope to come out of COVID-19 stronger than we were going in. So at head office, it’s been a time to tackle projects. Like rebuilding our internet, implementing new website and processes to minimize customer effort and upgrading our performance management HR systems.

Safety plans

Luckily, we had already started down a path of safety that I don’t believe any other chain our size has done. A full time health, safety and environment manager was hired. In addition to doing health and safety training, audits and reports, she was able to build our whole COVID-19 safety plan. Craftsman had signs up and social distancing decals on the floor within a week.

Now, we’ve had at least eight BC WorkSafe visits and all of them have been successful. They thought we were doing a great job, following all the protocols to make sure our staff and customers are safe.

The beauty of our industry is that in the back of the house, the technicians have one or two stalls that are 60 feet apart when they’re working on vehicles. Our front office staff were moved to the back private offices keeping only one or two people in the front office to assist with customers.

Customers have been incredibly receptive to our advertising campaign on TV and in print, where we featured our non-touch service, valet pick-up and drop off of customer’s vehicles at their home or place of business. In British Columbia, we have a fleet of replacement cars that we thoroughly disinfect every time they come back, so we’re able to pop people back into our cars versus waiting for a rental.

To further demonstrate our safety commitment, Craftsman is launching a new service for its customers – DrivePur. Craftsman has teamed up with Viral Defense Solutions to provide a two-stage sanitization treatment. DrivePur removes 99.99% of harmful pathogens (including COVID-19), mold and odours for up to six months using a botanical non-toxic hospital-proven formula and no harsh chemicals. Craftsman’s fleet of over 500 replacement vehicles and all employee vehicles will receive the treatment.

Second wave?

There’s some concern about the upcoming inclement weather and how it may affect customer service delivery. In Vancouver, it rains for five months starting in the middle of October, and the rest of Canada will soon be covered in snow. It’s going to be a different story when people have to wait outside in bad weather.

Most locations have a covered area, and where there isn’t an awning, we’ll erect tents to keep our customers dry and happy. In our industry, there are normally one to three customers at a time coming in. With our social distancing measures in place, it is now limited to one customer.

What if there’s a second wave? I’m hoping that everything will stay at the status quo, since we’re an indoor industry. The interior of the store will stay the same, summer or winter, as will the front end. It will just be a bit more of a hassle to work around the bad weather.

The whole staff deserves kudos for making sure everyone was safe and remained employed.

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