The knock-on effects of the pandemic may change forever how car dealerships operate, says motor trade expert Fraser Brown.
Showrooms have already come a long way from the days of predatory salespeople and oil-stained mechanics, with the emphasis firmly on delivering an exceptional customer experience.
However, one of the main drivers for change remains the ongoing difficulties surrounding recruitment and the need for dealerships to make themselves more attractive to prospective employees.
Fraser, the founder and managing director of consultancy MotorVise Automotive, said the motor trade is only able to compete in a tough jobs market by offering a better work-life balance.
The industry has traditionally required staff to work longer hours while operating seven days a week. Meanwhile, any option of working from home either part or full-time is impractical for many roles.
Pre-Covid research carried out by MotorVise suggests that those dealerships that insist their staff take random days off can expect a staff turnover 2.5 times higher than those able to offer two consecutive days off per week.
Fraser said: “There is extremely stiff competition for staff from other sectors and the signs are that dealerships are responding by offering improved working conditions to attract technicians, salespeople and those fulfilling other customer-facing roles.
This is borne out by several recent social media posts advertising dealer vacancies that stress the importance of work life balance.
Currently the Charles Hurst Group is offering applicants for a vacant technician/mechanic post in Belfast a four-day working week, generous annual leave, and competitive salary.
Fraser said: “Dealerships are really selling themselves by offering shorter working weeks, guaranteeing two consecutive days leave per week or an additional day off to compensate those who cover weekends.
“Those dealerships that fail to move with the times will simply find themselves understaffed or unable attract the right calibre of employee. That, in turn, means they will find themselves struggling to deliver the level of service that customers expect and demand.”
There is also an increasing use of technology, a process accelerated by many months of Covid-19 restrictions.
These include virtual showroom tours, video walk arounds, and the ability to access the necessary paperwork online via a customer portal.
Fraser added: “The average bundle of documents for a car purchase runs to around 21 pages, with multiple signatures required. Instead of reams of print outs, these can now be stored and accessed electronically.
“This is just one example where dealerships are embracing digital and using it to enhance the customers’ experience in the showroom.”