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Getting ready to re-open your business to the public

With the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in England coming into force, and the rest of the UK sure to follow closely behind, now is the time to plan to get your business back to normal as far as possible, while ensuring your premises are safe for your staff and customers to re-enter

We know you’ll be keen to start selling more vehicles, so we’ve also included some suggestions about how to get stock moving as quickly as possible, as well as how to keep your staff engaged and safe.

1. Your premises

  • While it’s unlikely the COVID-19 virus has remained on any surfaces for the whole lockdown period, it might be worth taking extra time and care by using anti-viral cleaning products to ensure yours and your customers’ safety. You may also wish to hire in a professional cleaning service for extra peace of mind. Areas such as computers, telephones, kitchen areas and bathrooms should be given extra attention. 
  • You need to make sure you have a full health and safety written assessment to ensure your business is COVID-19-secure. All dealerships will have to complete an online HSE inspection to prove that they are safe to reopen – and face random spot checks in the future to ensure they are continuing to comply. Using the HSE’s online tools, you will need to display a certificate that confirms the business has complied with the government’s guidance on managing the risk of COVID-19. You can find the certificate here.
  • It’s important to deep clean and disinfect any vehicles on your forecourt, especially places where hands and skin may touch, for example the steering wheel/handle bars, buttons, dials and handles. It might be worth documenting the date and time the vehicle was sanitised, to give customers extra reassurance. Remember that most cleaning equipment and face protection is in high demand, so make sure you’re ordering the items you need with plenty of notice.

2. Your online forecourt

  • Customers may be wary of entering premises after COVID-19, so by promoting your efforts of keeping the stock and showroom clean online, you may be able to offer some peace of mind and reassure customers it’s safe to visit. Use social media and your website to promote these new practises and tell customers you’re open for business. 
  • Ensure all your third-party site subscriptions are up to date and look to take advantage of any offers to support your restart.
  • Refresh your vehicle images. Some may have been on the forecourt for months, and buyers will remember. Take time to have a freshen up of the imagery and supporting text.
  • Consider using video calls, or pre-recorded video tours of vehicles for customers who may not wish to enter the showroom. 

3. Your staff

  • Take some time to consider whether all of your workforce need to be back in the dealership from day one. It might be worth keeping some staff working from home to help maintain social distancing in the dealership. If any staff are to remain away from the premises, ensure you keep them engaged with how the business is doing, and communicate your plans for them to return to the workplace. You could consider changing staff’s work patterns or working hours to minimise the amount of people on the premises at one time. 
  • Think about whether anything you would have done in person before the pandemic can continue to be done online, for example sending videos of the stock you have to minimise the number of customers visiting the premises initially or dealing with customer enquiries by phone or email. 
  • If customers must come into the dealership, why not create an appointment booking system to limit the amount of people in the showroom at a time? 
  • When inviting staff back into the dealership to work, make sure that distance is maintained between them. Where possible, move desks a little further apart to create extra room and help stop the spread of any viruses. Encourage them to avoid sharing pens, cutlery, notepads and other items that come into contact with their hand or even mice. The same applies for customers too – offer each one a new pen for example or use disposable cups, at least in the short term.

4. Your stock

  • It might be tempting to rush out and buy new stock to attract customers back to your dealership, but COVID-19 is bound to have had a massive impact on our economy and the way you work moving forward. For example, is there more demand for vehicles that are low cost to run, or larger vans to support delivery drivers that will be under pressure? Close Brothers Motor Finance can support you with local, data-driven insight. 
  • Now might be the time to speak to your Close Brothers Motor Finance Account Manager about a stock funding plan to ensure you can get the right stock for your dealership, at the right time to take advantage of any increase in demand. 
  • Decide in advance what your stance is on price, and offers on particular vehicles, and ensure the sales team are fully briefed.
  • The government have issued guidance around retail businesses, including motor dealerships, and how they can ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and customers. To view this guidance, please click here.

For further information or support, please contact your Account Manager in the first instance by phone or email.