Some dealership officials who were able to keep their doors open through the worst of the pandemic found that they could help workers and boost morale without much downside by simply adjusting business hours.
"We learned that we can be more profitable by staying open for fewer hours," said Vadim Makhlis, dealer principal at Monadnock Ford in Swanzey, N.H. "During the pandemic, we began to close sales at 6 p.m. on weekdays and closed parts and service on Saturdays. Post-pandemic, we kept those same hours because we learned that not only can we be more profitable but also afford our employees a higher quality of life."
At Audi Gainesville, Brinkmann made sure employees were empowered to take whatever time off they needed to deal with family matters or health concerns. At certain times, he said, the store would be open with about 10 fewer employees than normal.
"I think we were extremely lenient," he said. "If anybody had something going on, we told them to go handle it. Maybe somebody worked 50 hours and somebody else worked 37 hours one week. It didn't matter. We didn't drop the ball with any customers."
Some salespeople were able to continue talking with potential customers remotely, and Brinkmann said the pandemic also prompted the team to get e-signing capability in place to make the buying process easier for customers who didn't want to be in the dealership for long periods.
In addition, he said the in-person work force was diligent about cleaning and disinfecting the showroom and prioritized even mundane things such as locking the cars on display so multiple people couldn't get in and touch the surfaces.
"We needed to tighten up some of our procedures, and we needed to evolve to better serve our customers," he said. "We understood that our customers had their own set of challenges and fears, and our biggest challenge was meeting our customers where they felt comfortable."