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The Repair Shop and COVID-19

In the repair shop, work goes on. Photo: Shutterstock

What happened within repair shops during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We asked three different sized shops in very different locations what occurred during this disturbing time.

Ian from a small community stated that business changed! We found people more wanting to get things done. Conversations are shorter, authorizations easier. It’s been busier post open up and more money is getting spent.

Traffic has a normal feel to it, some clients are using our offered remote service (drop off car before we’re open, pay by e-transfer, pick up without office interaction) and we’ve followed all the Ontario government outlines—sanitizing steering wheels, gear shifts, etc., before and after service.

We haven’t really had a hard time with employees’ return to work plan, but did have large issues with returning staff. We had laid off staff for six weeks and on return everything was great for the first two weeks then changed. One employee was normal, second one wanted to change his entire pay plan and the last two became very difficult with their daily routine.

New challenges

Employers will have new challenges—different than ever before. Employees are our biggest asset and largest liability. Increased mental health and financial issues created by the pandemic will not help.

Roy in a major city says business hasn’t really been different but more how we react with customers, how their job is treated. We don’t allow anyone in the building—we use text and emails; customers drop their cars out front. A table there has instructions; they put the information in an envelope, and then through the door.

We do the repairs, check out the vehicles, then contact the customer via email or text. No one comes in the office. As it gets colder, we’ll put the shield up and let one person in at a time. So far it’s worked out 100%. Business is good—still steady. Many didn’t rush out to have tires changed/Spring maintenance done so that progressed nicely. Now we’ll see how Fall goes. We’ve actually been more productive—we don’t talk to customers all the time! No one has complained.

Special practices

We sanitize the envelopes customers put their ‘Services Needed’ info into; keys are put through the door; if they want to wait, there’s seating outside (weather permitting); we take good care of the elderly… we bring them inside. Every car has its own station—we spray steering wheels, seats, wear gloves to park the car. The client pays with a credit card or e-transfer. It’s been extra work for staff but they’ve handled the situation well.

We haven’t lost employees—everyone ‘obeyed the Government’. We cut hours at first but went back to normal hours—no one lost pay/hours. If any staff had COVID-19, I’d have to shut down for two weeks! So everyone stays their social distance!

Alan in Newfoundland tells us that like most businesses, we had to make adjustments. To ensure the safety of our staff and customers, we installed plexiglass barriers where appropriate and supplied masks and sanitizer to everyone.

Our business experienced a brief slow down initially but soon picked up to levels similar to previous years. One thing we did notice was the decline in out-of-province tourist traffic. Restrictions put in place by government limiting tourism led to this decline.

However, it is during stressful times like the past few months that having great staff and a solid customer base is critical. I’m very fortunate to have both!

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