Auto Service World
Feature   September 22, 2020   by Allan Janssen

Straw poll: What I learned during Covid



By Peter Bulmer

We conducted a straw poll recently to find out what lessons people are taking away from the extraordinary circumstances we’re all facing this year.


I’ve learned…


…to maintain a wide array of services

We stayed open the whole time. People were staying home, people were nervous… but we thought it was important to maintain our whole service offering. Being in Newfoundland insulates us quite a bit but I still had to cut down from eight techs to two. We’re back up to six techs and we’re back up to about 75% capacity right now.

John Lundrigan, Capital Mitsubishi, St. John’s, Nfld.


…to arrest the spread

This has certainly made me realize how dirty we used to be! We never thought about how bacteria and germs spread, or how we track them throughout our workplace or into vehicles. This has changed our idea of sanitation and safety in the workplace. My staff has been very supportive and understanding. The whole situation has rallied us together.

Jeff Rempel, George Rempel Auto Centre, Winnipeg, Man.


…to believe in your system

We really came to rely on the systems and processes we’d put in place. Throughout this whole Covid situation, we embraced the challenge and took a pretty big leadership role. Empowering your team can really make you agile and ensure that you come out the other side regardless of the situations in your way.

Jeff Hoff, Gears Plus, Prince George, B.C.


…the cost of not driving

If a vehicle is sitting in the driveway untouched for months, that’s going to have an impact. Rust will start to accumulate, parts could seize, there will be a natural breakdown in the vehicle. Unfortunately, if people are short of money, it causes a catch-22 where the customer doesn’t have the money to repair it, but can’t afford to drive either.

Art Quigg, Art Quigg’s Service, London, Ont.


…the value of low overhead

Owning the property that we’re on and the building we’re in, we actually were in a pretty good position where we could turn away non-essential work in order to concentrate on oil changes and tire changes. My heart goes out to those guys who are stuck between a rock and a hard place, having big overhead expenses.

Rudy Graf, Graf Auto, North York, Ont.


…to focus marketing on safety

We’ve switched our marketing to reassure customers that coming in is safe. We describe our cleanliness and attention to detail. We stress that the well-being of our staff and customers is the most important thing to us. We reassure them that they will be safe here, and their families will be safe on the road with a well-functioning vehicle.

Bob Ward, The Auto Guys, St Thomas, Ont.


…to focus on keeping cars going

Our biggest challenge has been to change our working methods to keep our team and customers safe. The new normal will probably be fewer waiting customers from now on. I think the automotive industry will stay healthy during the crisis. Everybody needs their car and many people will want to keep their old car running rather than have to get a new one.

Francis Lefebvre, Monsieur Muffler Ste-Catherine, Mercier, Que.


…to adapt to new realities

We’re seeing a lot of supplier interruptions, and it costs more to obtain the part. We’ve switched to contactless drop-offs, payment and pick-ups. Where my worry lies is that people are starting to ignore the social distancing rules, and if we get put into an even firmer lockdown, I can see a lot of shops going under.

Clyde Doucette, New Tech Automotive, Beeton, Ont.


…to prepare for the long-term

We’ve noticed there’s a big push in the community to support local businesses. People have been bringing in repairs that they’ve been putting off, just to give us some work. If this keeps up, I expect the real slowdown to happen next winter, when people will have been out of work for a long, and belts will really have to tighten.

Nancy Suranyi, Namao Automotive Repair, Namao, Alta.


…that communication is everything

We’ve increased our communication with our customers, walking them step-by-step through all the changes in the way we operate. We’ve started offering vehicle pickups, which is great for lot of elderly people. And we’re getting a lot of positive feedback to our use photos and videos to communicate repair needs during the Covid crisis.

Doug Reevey, Autotec, Saint John, N.B.


…to hang in there!

Cleaning and sanitizing everything has been a big change, and communicating with our customers through signs on our door… it all took some getting used to. But a couple weeks after the initial lock down, we actually got back on track. We’re booking three weeks out now and seeing some bigger ticket work again. It’s been an interesting time for sure!

Kevin Suttorp, Elec-Tech Automotive Repair, Winnipeg, Man.