12V: Throwing the Power Switch
We might not get back to firing on all cylinders – but we can get back to business while making our customers feel safe
As we try to get into some sense of normalcy in our pandemic world, we can take a look at what 12-volt retailers are doing that is working. Who would have thought curbside pickup would be a viable option for customers who need accessories? Virtual appointments are now commonplace. The most disheartening thing right now is not being able to give customers a proper demonstration in a personal vehicle. At this moment in time, the demo vehicle, once the Holy Grail of 12-volt qualifying and closing, is now put to the sidelines. Perhaps we’ll see its return with only one customer allowed in at a time with the windows open. But not being able to sit shotgun and explain the sonic differences with a good demo track sure is a bummer. But there are other bright spots in the industry – especially the sales of in-cabin air filtration (that I happened to coincidentally write a story on before COVID-19).
Getting back to work can be tough, but it is important to let your customers know the protocol for your store.
Just last night I went to pick up dinner from our favorite restaurant, to support them. There is usually a valet car parker (another industry I don’t see coming back anytime soon), so I pulled up where the normal queue for the valet was located. There were a couple of other cars in parking spaces, but no clear signage on where to wait for the food. My wife jumped out of the car with her mask on to see the situation. Eventually someone came out, but clearly labeled instructions for customers sure make a world of difference.
Columbus Does It Right
One retailer who has done a phenomenal job in developing a plan to make it easy for customers is Columbus Car Audio. They have two locations in the Ohio city. President Todd Hays discusses their reopening: “We unfortunately had a lot of time to think about our reopening because we were closed for over four weeks. Although we could have been deemed an essential business, we felt it was in the best interest of our staff and our customers to be closed for a while. Prior to reopening we spent a lot of time with our management team discussing how to do so safely. Ohio had specific guidelines for businesses to reopen that we followed and expanded on those rules to ensure a safe environment for our employees and our customers. I have been in several retail establishments in Ohio and Florida, and I truly believe we are doing more than most, but for us it is the right way to conduct business right now.”
We really like the thought that Columbus Car Audio put into reopening. Some of the Columbus Car Audio thoughtful touches include cleaning all customer vehicles, especially the seat, gear shift and steering wheel – and the practice of using floor protectors. “We’re regularly cleaning and disinfecting all common areas, high touch points, sales counters and product displays multiple times a day,” Hays notes. “We’ll have key drop boxes and can take a credit card over the phone when it’s time for your appointment. We also offer other no-touch payment options. We’ll be practicing social distancing by monitoring and limiting the number of people, including staff, inside our stores and install garages. This also means we’ll be limiting the number of appointments per day. We’re rigorously following safety protocols for illness in our workplace, with most office staff working remotely. We’re not allowing any employee with any signs of illness to report to work in our stores. We’re also taking the temperature of every employee every day at our stores. Our clients’ trust is at the very heart of our family business and we appreciate our customers’ support in this time.”
We also really like that Columbus Car Audio considered high-risk and elderly folks who may request one-on-one appointments before or after regular store hours for their safety. It is proudly stated on their website.
As things get back to our new normal, we need to be vigilant about considering our customer’s safety. There was a recent story about a pizza parlor employee who temporarily removed his mask because of the heat from the pizza ovens. A relatively reasonable situation. But when a couple came in to pick up their food, they were put off by the mask-less employee and canceled the order. If an installer is working alone, it is probably safe for them to not don a mask and gloves and thoroughly clean the vehicle at the end of the installation. But all eyes are on us right now. Especially in the installation bay. Make sure your techs, salespeople and support staff are all doing everything possible to make our customers comfortable. Right now, that’s more important than what was the all-important demo. Company-branded masks on employees could be the summer sales tool.