In the current environment of COVID-19, keeping store employees and customers safe is paramount. Historically, some stores have had customers go into a waiting room during service. However, as a result of the current situation, many of those operators are evaluating what it may look like to keep the customer in the vehicle.

In stores where the customer has been accustomed to getting out of their vehicle and having an employee drive the vehicle into the bay, the customer may now become the driver. Your employee will guide the customer into the bay. This is a big change for both of them. There are several keys to safely guiding the customer into the bay, while protecting both your customer and employee:

  • Communication is key. Communicate with the customer what is expected before they come into the bay. Review what the hand signals will be and who to watch for direction.
  • Get the vehicle properly lined up outside the bay so only minor alignment adjustments will be needed while directing the vehicle into the bay. This helps relieve some of the stress on the customer while driving into the bay.
  • Employees should stand in line with the driver’s side edge of the vehicle and two to three steps back from the pit opening. This is for safety reasons in case the customer doesn’t stop the vehicle as directed.
  • Employees should use big motions for giving direction and maintain direct eye contact with the customer. Think of it as though employees are part of an airport ground crew directing a passenger airplane into the gate. They use big full arm motions. In the lube center, having the arms straight out in front, bent at the elbow and using the full elbow to hand motion gives clear directions. Feel free to stop the vehicle and make adjustments anytime it appears things may be unsafe.

In September 2016, National Oil and Lube News magazine published an article written by David Burbach. It was about safety when guiding vehicles into the bay. Burbach wrote, “It happens a hundred times a day in each and every lube shop in the country. Technicians driving or guiding vehicles into the service bays and then backs out again. It can become so routine and so repetitive that complacency starts to creep in, and when it does, accidents happen.” Even if your customer is used to driving into the bay, treat each customer as though it is his or her first time driving into the bay.

In addition to guiding the vehicle into the bay with the customer in the car the entire time, we recommend additional procedures to keep employees and customers safe. Personal protective equipment (gloves, mask, and safety glasses) should be worn at all times. In addition to the PPE, it is important to consider the following:

  • When wearing a facemask, be sure to speak louder and more slowly than you normally would. You want to be sure the customer hears and clearly understands what you are saying.
  • Have the customer only roll their driver side window down enough just to hear you. We recommend suggesting they only roll the window down about two inches.
  • Once the customer has driven the vehicle in, have them remove their keys from the ignition and lay them on the dashboard where you can see them. If the vehicle has keyless start, remind the customer not to touch the start button in any fashion until directed to do so later in the service. This safety feature is primarily to protect your employee.
  • Stand several feet away from the customer. It is easier for the customer if the employee stands forward of the driver side door, looking back toward the customer.
  • You may want to have a piece of plexiglass available, either a loose sheet, or mounted to a rolling stand. In the event you have a customer who is having trouble hearing you with the facemask on, put the shield between you and the customer before lowering your facemask to protect both of you. You can also use a small whiteboard or sheets of paper to write information on and hold up for the customer to read. Another option is to consider talking with your customer through the passenger side window. This window could be fully lowered, assuming there is no passenger in the vehicle, and allows you to stand close to the vehicle while remaining a safe distance from your customer.
  • Whether through the passenger or driver window, using a tablet for your service presentation is a very effective and safe way to educate your customer about the manufacturer service recommendations for their vehicle. It also eliminates the need for paper.
  • For resetting the Oil Lamp, on equipped vehicles, inform the customer you are going to walk them through the process. It may be helpful to tell them what you are going to have them do, then walk them through it step by step.
  • If you choose to service cabin air filters, you may need to establish protocols that protect the customer such as a plexiglass shield placed between you and your customer. Masks should always be worn and fresh gloves put on before entering the vehicle. There are many considerations that go into the decision to enter the vehicle such as the customer being comfortable, the employee being comfortable, proper protection and following protocols that conform to your local, state or federal guidelines.
  • If your POS system permits sending the invoice to the customer by email, use this opportunity to obtain a valid email address and send the invoice electronically.

These are only a few ideas for you to consider, but we hope they help provide some ideas as you safely serve customers while protecting them and your employees.