As the calendar flipped to 2021, my email inbox became littered with story pitches from experts and analysts about how to make the new year great. Some of the pitches were tied to the service lane and typically included a bullet-point list of how to make 2021 remarkable.
Somewhere on just about every list was the advice, "Forget about 2020."
I completely understand the sentiment, but the year did have some redeeming qualities.
Jim Henne is general manager at Performance Toyota in Sinking Spring, Pa., 90 minutes northwest of Philadelphia. His service business was off 40 percent last April, and he had to furlough 70 percent of his staff at the start of the pandemic and deal with customers afraid to come in. He'd be right to want to forget 2020.
But Henne thinks about the things he and his staff accomplished against enormous odds, efforts that will be an important part of their 2021 operations. Expanding service pickup and delivery. Initiating contactless payments. Offering free vehicle sanitizing to the community — whether they were Performance customers or not.
Henne says 2020 taught him how to be flexible, how to "change your course, really, at a moment's notice." He also learned empathy toward stressed-out customers and how vital it is to be sure the service department is communicating with them.
Henne's business bounced back by summer, and he is looking to carry that momentum throughout 2021. He is strengthened knowing that he and his staff endured a year unlike any other and came out the other end smarter and more resilient.