Business Expansion During a Pandemic by Domenic Prochilo

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Domenic Prochilo
Domenic Prochilo Photo: Jack Kazmierski

While COVID-19 has been a huge disruptor, there are still opportunities to grow

Since March 23, 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic has brought with it challenges in both our personal lives and in business. Whether you are an employee, or self-employed, everyone’s life has been touched in some way by COVID-19. The Global Pandemic has ravaged businesses and their ability to maintain operations for the last several months and, with a second wave among us, the future is less predictable than ever.

Keeping up

To mitigate a financial disaster, the Federal and Provincial Governments have flexed their financial muscle and have gone into debt, to keep the country from going into a full-blown depression. As a result, the new normal seems to be a series of localized shutdowns, mandatory masks, and a lot of added pressure on businesses to keep up with the latest protective measures to keep their employees and clients safe.

With an emphasis on the Automotive Aftermarket, I am going to share some strategies that can help assist businesses through the Global Pandemic, ensuring that these strategies will endure in the new normal, whatever that new normal will be. These strategies are as follows:

  • Be prepared to launch innovative campaigns
  • Use social media to your advantage
  • Communicate with your clients
  • Create long term alliances

What comes to mind when you read the phrase “innovative campaign”? The first thing that comes to my mind is when searching for a new vehicle. From dealer to dealer I would see signage stating “we will pay for your gas for three years”; or “free oil changes for four years”. This is very appealing to most people; this type of advertisement even caught my attention and I’m in the industry. I was compelled to go in and enquire.

So, I will ask you the same question that I asked myself, “what is your innovative campaign going to be for your business?”

With fall already upon us and the winter and the holiday season fast approaching, it can be said that as a dismal year comes to a close, there is optimism for a fresh start in 2021. There are plenty of fun ways to create an innovative campaign, for the College Basketball fans reading this, how about playing into “March Madness”? The list goes on.

Getting more work

In the Automotive Aftermarket, COVID-19 has brought its fair share of challenges to the consistency of work in process. However, a decrease in work to the door does not mean that there isn’t any work. This challenge, which is exacerbated by a global pandemic, forces operators to ask the question, “how do I get more work through the door?”

One way to answer this age-old question is via Social Media. Online platforms have quickly become the “great equalizer” when it comes to promoting your business. With the quick and affordable availability of today’s social media outlets, innovative campaigns or advertising does not require a large marketing budget to successfully share information with your target market.

With that said, I will share with you three ways to communicate with your clients via social media.

Innovative, genuine social media campaigns can really resonate with customers. Photo: Shutterstock

Firstly, let your followers know about the great people are that provide your service day in and day out. Through interviews or posting pictures of your staff, you are sending a message to current or potential clients that you are proud of the people you employ. Secondly, share stories about your business or your staff. For example, if shop management is planning a process change, or a shop layout change, or any change in technology that will improve the repair process, share it with your clients and show them your focus is to provide the best experience possible.

Be vulnerable, and let the clients and prospects know “that this is the mindset behind the change, and we are looking to provide better or faster service because of it as well as looking forward to sharing our results with you.”

Doing so shows people and affiliate partners that, “this is where the shop is reinvesting their revenue, this is great.”

Thirdly, provide fun, or educational facts. One quick example would be creating a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and post them on your social media platform.

Communicating early

Communicating with your clients early and often, allows you to make large strides toward becoming a recognized brand and a “trusted advisor”. Updating your clients throughout the repair process should be a standard operating procedure (SOP); if it is not, this should be your first order of business.

Adding this function to your SOPs will help build rapport with little effort and emphasize your commitment to the customer as a trusted advisor. Here are two quick examples of this that do not require any tools or technology. Firstly, contacting your client 24 hours before the scheduled drop-off and 24 hours after picking up goes a long way. This demonstrates to your client that you understand they have busy lives, and the friendly reminder will help ensure they can keep their commitment to schedule their vehicle for repairs.

Conducting yourself in the same manner post-delivery is just as important, this is what some refer to as “closing the loop”, ensuring that your client is totally satisfied and has no additional questions.

Lastly, as you search for OEM information in the Repair Planning process, it never hurts to search for any warranties or recalls on the client’s vehicle. Put yourself in the shoes of the client when you get a call stating:

“Good morning Mr. Smith, in preparing your vehicle’s estimate we have noticed that there are ABC & XYZ recalls for your vehicle—have these been addressed yet? If not, we would love to help you navigate through this process by reaching out to the dealer of your choice to have this resolved.”

This one thing, that took little time and effort, will go a long way and will contribute to the client’s positive experience long after you finish the call.

Focus, innovation, service

Expanding your business through the Global Pandemic will be difficult, but not impossible. Ensuring growth during this turbulent time is not exclusively a challenge to the Automotive Aftermarket, but for all businesses that have experienced a downturn.

I believe that a business that focuses on launching innovative campaigns for their clients, uses social media to communicate and educate, with a focus on how to better serve their clients, will take that business down the road of success.

Domenic Prochilo is Vice President at Simplicity Car Care. You can reach him at [email protected]

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