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Remote Diagnostics is the new normal, that and COVID 19

Blog/ Remote Diagnostics is the new normal, that and COVID 19

In this guide, we will also cover what measures you can take to prevent the spread of Coronavirus within your business and how you can keep your staff and customers safe with a few procedure changes to the operations of your garage. We will also discuss the adverse effects that some government measures have had upon the industry (MOT Holidays, for example) and how you can overcome this myriad of issues and survive a coming recession.

Finally, we will outline all the ways in which the OSCA cable and remote diagnostics can help keep your garage business safe and profitable during this seemingly endless pandemic.

Reducing the risk

Or 'flatten the curve' whichever pointless slogan you want to use. With the government stepping up measures to inspect businesses, COVID-19 safety procedures have never been more important for the garage industry and its employees to ensure that it is compliant with these guidelines, so with this in mind, here are some tips on how you can keep your business safe.

Analyse your customer care procedure and how your employees interact with clients and colleagues

Download our free Coronavirus notices for your garage here.

We are sure that many of you will have already been doing this since re-opening, but it is crucial to regularly review your customer journey and ways that you can keep your customers, staff, and business safe. It's helpful to have a written set of procedures and a calendar set up for when you review your procedures.

This should ideally take the form of performing a risk assessment and then hosting an action meeting to determine what new measures need to be put in place and how. Here is a link to the Health & Safety Executive's guide for Risk Assessments for Motor Vehicle Workshops. You will also need to include this COVID-19 Risk Assessment.

Ideally, during these meetings and assessments, you should be thinking of ways you can reduce the number of customer encounters with your staff unless they are essential. Could you have communicated with the customer via email, SMS or phone? If it comes to taking payment from a customer, what payment procedure do you use? Do you accept cash, or can they pay via contactless card payment or even PayPal? Reducing contact between your customers and staff is one of the key areas where you can reduce the risk of coronavirus to your business.

Next, think about your staffing levels and the roles that each of your employees is playing within your business and the areas within which they work. Is there any way they can maintain social distancing whilst working? If not, will they be required to wear face masks and other PPE? Could you potentially split your employees' jobs to minimise contact? Are there working hours correct? Do they all need to be present at the same time, or can you stagger shifts or even reduce the number of staff temporarily (see Job Support Scheme page 4)?

Finally, dig into how you communicate, police and enforce the procedures that you have put in place. Firstly, you need to communicate, so call your staff into a meeting, preferably individually or in a large space, to allow for social distancing and explain the measures you have put into effect. Then you will want to signpost these measures with notices to remind them of the procedures. The same applies to your customers. With the recent release of the NHS Track and Trace App, the Government has provided a handy template and free QR code generator here

So what is Track & Trace, and how does the app work?

So, the government has produced a new track & trace app, and hopefully, it works this time around. The app works with Bluetooth and is aimed at automating the contact tracing process (the act of determining the prior movements and interaction of an infected individual to limit the spread of a disease).

It uses the Bluetooth signal that is broadcast by the app to determine how close the user is to other nearby smartphones. These 'encounters' are then logged within the app for 14 days. It does this by ranking how close you came to another person's device and for how long.

Less than two metres for over 15 minutes is deemed 'high risk'. If the person you 'encountered' then letter tests positive for the virus or self-diagnoses their symptoms through the app, you will then be notified that you are required to self-isolate. However, only high-risk 'encounters' will be notified.

So, to sum up, the app determines your risk score with a combination of how long you spent near the infected individual, the actual distance and their current symptoms at the time, which can be reported in the app. The app does not track your location via GPS and is deliberately designed to be as private as possible it only asks for the first part of your postcode when you register.

"What are the QR codes you mentioned earlier for?" I hear you asking. Well, they are to allow some degree of location-based tracking so that you or your customers can check in at your garage, which allows the NHS to contact potential hotspots and warn them to self-isolate.

You can download the app on the GooglePlaystore or the AppStore.

The Winter Economy Plan (What support can you get?)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak, has laid down plans for how they will prop up the economy over the winter months with 'The Winter Economy Plan'. Here are just a few things that were announced that you can look into to help your business in these trying times.

  • Job Support Scheme - This new scheme from the government intended to replace Furlough is designed to protect what is deemed as 'viable jobs' over a winter economic slowdown. In this scheme, the government will pay up to 77% of an employee's wages if their work hours have been reduced.

  • SEISS or Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - This could be of use to you if you're a Self-Employed Mechanic or you sub-contract jobs out rather than having permanent employees. This grant is designed to help self-employed people remain in the workforce and in business. This is paid out over six months in quarterly instalments and is capped at £1,875.

  • VAT Deferral - If you are VAT registered, then the Government is allowing you to defer your VAT bill until 2021, and with the New Payment Scheme, you can pay it back interest-free over the course of the 2021 to 2022 tax year.

  • Bounce Back Loan - The Government has a new Pay as You Grow flexible repayment system for the loans that millions of businesses took out during the initial lockdown. They are also allowing lenders to extend loan periods to ten years if it helps the debtor to recover.

Right now, the boring bits out of the way, we move to yet another potential disaster that your business will have to navigate in the coming months.

Remember when Brexit was a thing?

Ah yes! Brexit is indeed still a thing. So, how can you prepare your business for this brave new world?

Diversify your suppliers - Ensuring you have a variety of suppliers that can provide you with parts outside of the EU will help partially shield your business in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It's wise to start doing this immediately as the EU provides over £35m worth of Automotive parts per day to the UK. There is also an opportunity to find cheaper suppliers from the likes of China and India here.

Get your recruitment sorted - Plan your recruitment strategy for the next couple of years in advance and try to get the right candidates, especially from European countries working and settled now, before Brexit.

EU Funding - Did you ever receive any funding from the EU to start or grow your business? If so, it's worth checking if the terms will change after we fully leave.

MOT Government Holiday

Another measure that has been damaging to the garage industry is the introduction of MOT holidays, with many garages offering MOTs as their sole offering. It has forced many to suffer from a loss of business and likely some to have shut their doors permanently. One way garages have been adapting to this temporary legislation is by doing offers on MOTs at times when the R-rate (rate of infection) of COVID-19 has been at its lowest such as August but with the prospect of improvements in the number of cases and the mortality rates likely to increase over the long dark of winter leaving many garages having to consider offering extra services in coming months.

Diversification may not have to be as expensive as it sounds. If your operation is strapped for funds, extra services with minimum overheads are available, such as replacing car key remote batteries and car key programming. If you already have an OSCA cable, then you're in luck as we provide key programming services alongside the ever-expanding jobs in our application list, and we can even potentially recommend where you can get other equipment through our distributors with 0% finance if you need to offer more services.

How your garage can use OSCA to keep your staff safe and your clients coming

Now finally, we move to the heart of the matter. What can OSCA do to keep your garage business safe and profitable during the pandemic?

Firstly, while UK car dealers, both used and new, have seen plummeting sales, this does provide a glimmer of hope for independent garage owners. People sticking to their older cars will likely lead to an increased demand for maintenance. As mentioned earlier, the diverse range of diagnostic jobs we can undertake should allow your business to undertake jobs that it couldn't do previously, such as DPF regeneration or Tow Bar installation. We support these jobs on the vast majority of vehicles. So what's to stop you from undertaking the work and increasing your revenue whilst keeping your overheads the same?

Secondly, with the OSCA cable, you simply plug it in and connect to the WiFi, and then it's virtually hands-free, which leaves your employees free to get on with routine tasks while we handle the bigger stuff. This means that you can get more done with a leaner crew of mechanics lowering your running cost and also decreasing the time that your technicians need to spend in potentially contaminated vehicles.

Following on from my previous point, because our team of technicians can carry out dealer-level diagnostics on most makes and models, it enables you to avoid taking the vehicle back and forth from the dealer resulting in a significant reduction of wasted work hours, fuel cost, recovery costs resulting in significant savings and reduced risk of exposure to coronavirus.

In addition, our easy-to-navigate application list allows you to have a crystal clear understanding of exactly what jobs your team can undertake with our cable at any given time and support throughout the procedure so you can maximise profit by tailoring your services to the jobs that our most profitable for you and comfortable for your team.

Finally, we offer discounts for multiple jobs of the same type, so with a little bit of planning, you can work with our team to undertake multiple diagnostic jobs of the same type in one go, thus increasing your return on investment. For more information on how to structure your jobs to get the best out of our multi-job discount, contact [email protected]

Keeping up with Covid guidelines

More coronavirus tips coming up. A lot of businesses have been struggling with information overload with the Government flip-flopping between one policy and the next. Can we have a pint at the pub, or can we not? You can only have a pint at the pub on the second Sunday of the month, but only if it's the summer solstice after the African swallows have flown south for the winter, etcetera.

So here are a few brief tips on how you can cut through the never-ending media frenzy.

  • Use online tools such as Feedly and Google Alerts to tailor the information you receive to things that are relevant to you
  • Allocate a specific time of day to digest the information that you need to know, whether it's government guidance or How to remove a Torq wrench that's lodged in an engine block.
  • Delegate specific areas of information to specific members of your team and charge them with keeping you abreast of any relevant changes.

Right, that’s all till next time, folks.

From the team at OSCA.