For many of us around the country, Friday, March 13th was the last day of normal operations before we knew restrictions were going to go into place. Over the next few days, most non-essential businesses were ordered to close, “safer at home” orders were given, and next to no one knew what life would look like come Monday.
Several months later, there’s a lot of noise in the world, and we’ve been through a lot without a clear end in sight. We could easily write about the difficulties we’ve encountered, the economic impacts experienced; we could despair, complain, and lament. What ETE REMAN has decided to do instead is really get to work. Here’s 7 ways you can, too:
1. Double down on what you’re good at.
From part shortages to travel restrictions, business closures to economic strife, there are a lot of ways businesses are being impacted. There are a lot of ways to highlight the limitations of our business. Instead, do what you do best even better than before.
- Are you known for fast turnaround? Impress your customers by being even faster.
- Is your customer service out of this world? Keep it up and go above and beyond at every opportunity.
- Known for your reasonable rates? Be flexible in working with new or old vendors to ensure you can keep those outstanding rates for your customers.
At ETE, we made the decision to fortify our most in-demand production lines. This meant re-allocating builders away from some of our more specialized units so that we could meet market demand. At times our ability to produce was impacted by absences – a scary unknown, but almost guaranteed during a global pandemic. In light of this, we did what we do best: continue to invest in our employees. We keep them safe by cleaning our entire facility daily, supplying them ETE branded masks (more than once), and keeping them well fed to minimize their exposure outside of work. We gave all we could while they were giving their time to being an essential employee.
2. Do something different.
Have you heard the commercial? The commercial for every company about how long they have been supporting you the customer and how they’re here for you through difficult times? They’re all the same, and by now you (and every other consumer) is numb to it.
- Think about the norm for the industry, your norm for your advertising and do something different!
- Consider offering different or additional hours so that your company stands out and can service a different group.
- Make a process change to your service or billing in response to customers’ needs.
ETE REMAN did this by opening our call center on Saturdays and eliminating our limited warranty for Commercial Applications. Most companies (that are fortunate enough to remain operational) have made cuts to their staffing, hours, capabilities, and marketing. Instead, our strategy is to offer more value to customers. When economic and other conditions make booking work more difficult, that’s not the time to cut into the consumer’s value. Stand out from the pack by figuring out ways to offer more, not less.
3. Go “all in” to make it work.
Around here we “make it work, then make it better.” It’s a philosophy that allows for rapid change and improvement. Since March, ETE REMAN has made many quick, proactive changes that have allowed us to continue business [mostly] uninterrupted and improve as we go.
We quickly established that all employees that could work from home (sales, marketing, systems and strategy,) should do so. For all of our remanufacturing employees, we acted to quickly and efficiently make them safer at work. Who knew things could be so clean?!?
These changes were crucial to the well-being of our team, but they were just as essential for keeping customers’ trust. The saying is, adapt or die, and dying isn’t an option for essential businesses like ours (or yours).
- Be prepared to adopt (and maybe later re-adopt) strategies for contactless service. Not sure if this is important? Ask the restaurants that didn’t adjust to offer curbside pick-up.
- Supply your shop with the materials and time to keep stations and vehicles clean and safe. (Not sure where to get supplies? Talk to your community – we are in this together!)
- Share the steps you’re taking with employees and customers in any way you can – transparency keeps people safe, confident, and keeps businesses in operation.
Your business is already working, so now it’s time to ask, “How can you make your approach even better right away?” Consider creative ways you can demonstrate your commitment to safety to your customers – it doesn’t just have to be a pivot on your existing services. If nothing jumps out immediately, look to other businesses for insights and try to apply them to your shop. For example, this month all of our transmission shop customers will find a high-quality, reusable mask in their pods when they receive their remanufactured units. We remind our shops that they are our partners, and we wanted to provide them with the same safety options we provide our internal team.
4. Be a resource.
Whether through a conversation with a customer, a vendor, a supplier, or a friend, being a resource during this time of uncertainty is one of the strongest ways to keep your business top of mind, bolstering your customer service.
- Talk to your customers, your vendors, and your suppliers about what you’re doing, what they’re doing, and be prepared to share everything you learn.
- Share some pictures of your shop getting cleaned, of workstations, of a tech in a fashionable (maybe ETE REMAN?) mask to promote your shop’s efforts.
ETE REMAN has learned… a lot the last few months – and one of those key lessons is that it does no one any good to try to keep what has worked and what hasn’t a secret: we are all in this together. This article is just one small way that we are offering our experience running a production facility and taking care of 600 employees and their families as a resource for the industry. Got questions about the challenges of moving office employees remote, taking the temperature of every employee each morning, navigating overtime, or testing all your employees for COVID-19, let us know! We’ve experienced a lot on our scale which could help on yours.
5. Rekindle old relationships.
Remember the vendors you broke up with long ago, former employees, shops that used to refer powertrain jobs to yours, maybe even customers that haven’t come calling in some time? Desperate times call for forgiving actions. Now is the most opportune time to rekindle old relationships in order to keep your shop running.
- Start by offering to give – ask how they are faring and if there’s anything they can do to help. Chances are good, whatever they may need from you may actually help your business too.
- Leave no stone unturned. Call everyone to see who you can help and who can help you.
- Get what help you can now, even if your favorite supplier isn’t able to supply demand. There will again be opportunities in the future to evaluate who you will work with going forward, and you may be surprised by who stays on the list.
Commonly the most critical criteria for parts ordering in a shop or manufacturing operation are quality and cost. Over the last 12 weeks, availability has leapfrogged both of those in many areas. The salesperson you’ve blown off may be able to provide critical resources that enable you to keep fixing vehicles. Heck, even that reman company or dealership that you’ve sworn as the enemy to rebuilders everywhere is a temporary option that can sustain your ability to serve your customers.
6. Reach out to customers.
Is your favorite restaurant open and seating? Was it in March? Is your doctor’s office allowing in-person visits again? How about your place of worship or even workplace? We bet you know the status of these locations because you want to know and so you follow their activities closely. Chances are, though, that your potential customers aren’t following your status quite as closely. That’s a crucial piece of customer education – letting them know that you’re open, what your hours of operation are, and what to expect when they do come in is a must.
- Reach out by phone, email, social media, skywriting or a dancing mascot – it doesn’t matter how you reach your customers, just that you do so with accurate information.
- Have your services expanded during this time? Doing vehicle inspections, brake work, or offering discounts? Let the world know!
- Talking to a customer who is working from home? Educate them on car-care for a vehicle that’s been idle and get that business!
- Use this opportunity to hear about how your customers and their families are doing – learn what’s going on and how you might be able to support their needs.
At ETE, what we call “welfare checks” are happening near daily throughout the crisis. Sometimes there’s so much noise and information that it’s hard to get a sense of what’s happening. Picking up the phone and connecting with our industry partners to learn about the welfare of their states, their businesses, and their families gets everyone the information they need and builds relationships that last a lifetime.
7. Take some training.
Whether business is slow or business is booming, now presents itself as a unique time to take advantage of opportunities to learn. Many courses offer discounted prices or even methods that weren’t previously offered, like webinars. Organizations like ATSG and ATRA are still present, operating, and able to support you on any job that comes your way. “Now” is always the right time to continue your education and self-betterment, but it’s also a better opportunity than ever.
A lot of growth can come from a crisis if you put your time and energy into the positive actions you can take. You already have (or should be) considering changes to how your business runs, don’t neglect to look at what you might learn or how your shop might grow. The surprising truth is that there’s opportunity for us all to succeed through and beyond 2020.
If nothing comes to mind, you can always start with the information you may have missed due to a postponed or cancelled technical seminar: https://ete.buzz/2020ATSGSeminarBooks
7.5 Demonstrate gratitude.
Our businesses are essential. It hasn’t been an easy time for anyone, but the critical nature of the infrastructure that we all provide, combined with the collective mental, physical and emotional stamina of the community we are all a part of, our businesses have continued to run. That means that vehicles and the workers that need them have stayed on the road. For that and more, we can all demonstrate gratitude.
At ETE, we made a t-shirt in April that we provided to all of our employees. Across the front it states that the wearer is “ETEssential”. Throughout the crisis, our team members have worn the t-shirt with pride and have embraced their role in the chain we are all part of. They have come to work every day, worked overtime when necessary, and done it all with the diligence and expertise that they have always shown, all to keep our business running and to keep food on the tables of many in our Milwaukee community. We are all a small part of something larger, and you never feel that more than when we acknowledge that we are all essential.
Remember that “Essential” is not just a label, it’s a badge to be worn with pride. You give safety, peace of mind and reliability to people who need it more than ever. But, don’t stop at telling yourself and your team that you’re essential, demonstrate it by making yourself into a business and people that others truly can not do without. Now is the time to grow and to become more than you were before, there has seldom been a better chance to do so.
Thank you – we’re grateful for our transmission shop partners, and if ETE REMAN can be a resource to you or maybe even send you a cool mask for you and your team, don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re here and not going anywhere… except forward.