Following government advice, Arnold Clark closed its doors on Tuesday 24th March with the majority of the workforce placed on furlough. While government guidelines allowed workshops and service centres to remain open during lockdown, the directors took the step to close our branches to keep our employees and customers safe, until we could put new safer processes in place. But that was only the beginning – a number of people were working remotely to keep the company running and to get ready for a new way of working.
Some Service Centres remained open throughout lockdown to help repair emergency vehicles and Arnold Clark donated more than £30,000 in parts to keep them on the road. The Group also supplied hundreds of vehicles to NHS employees and key workers who may have otherwise have had difficulty getting to work, while our Coachbuilders upgraded NHS minibuses to make them safer for external workers.
Our CSR team coordinated the supply of vehicles to a number of charities and community groups to help with their important work, delivering food packages to vulnerable people and vital PPE to key workers.
Following lockdown, a small percentage of the company’s 13,000 employees worked to keep the business running, making sure furloughed employees received all the information and resources they needed and that all customers’ questions and concerns were answered.
The directors continue to prepare the business for a new, safer way of working, keeping in contact with Trading Standards and government officials to ensure Arnold Clark branches meet the highest health and safety standards, while continuing to offer exceptional customer service.
Throughout lockdown, Arnold Clark has used its internal communications platforms to keep employees updated on the latest developments in the business. New training courses have been created to cover social distancing guidelines, cleaning requirements and use of PPE. These courses must be completed by every employee before they enter the workplace. Arnold Clark employs a diverse workforce and all our employees, from product consultants to valeters, will receive specialist training to make their jobs safer.
In preparation for welcoming customers back into the branches in the future, social distancing measures have been implemented, just like in supermarkets. Hand sanitising stations and disposable gloves will be available at the main entrance and there will be protective screens between employees and customers. One-way systems will be in operation, with arrows on the floor to guide visitors as well as markers to ensure everyone maintains a two-metre distance. Visits will now be by appointment only to limit the number of people on site at any time. And while the usual hospitality with complimentary tea and coffee won’t be there, the new appointment system should ensure shorter waiting times.
Branches will receive at least one deep clean every day and all touchpoints in all customers’ cars, including steering wheel, gear stick, handles etc., will be disinfected both before and after handover. Branches have been redesigned to make sure workspaces are now at least two metres apart to allow our employees to maintain a safe distance.
The first phase of reopening will be to bring back Arnold Clark’s Service and Accident Repair departments, with selected branches opening from 18th May. While we’ll begin taking appointments over the phone via our contact centre, we’d appreciate your patience. To begin with, our technicians will work through the backlog of vehicles currently in our service centres as well as helping customers who had work booked in before the lockdown.
The way our cars are processed is also changing. Handovers and paperwork will be minimised and far more details will be gathered via a new online check-in process and over the phone before customers visit the branch.
We know many people want to buy a new car and we will reopen for retail as soon as possible, with some necessary changes.
While most customers start looking for their new car online, visiting an Arnold Clark branch and taking it for a test drive has always been an important part of the process. Following lockdown, some of this will change, but Arnold Clark’s strong digital presence will remain a vital part of the car-buying process, providing all the information customers need to make an informed decision.
Customers will be able to use both the website and the Arnold Clark app to search for their perfect car and build their own deal for their current part exchange vehicle. They will find the full specifications and images and then, if they want to know more, they can make an enquiry. Product geniuses can then create a bespoke preview video, showcasing the car and explaining all of its features so that customers can have a closer look.
If they choose to buy it, customers can reserve their car online for a fully refundable £99. With the new Click & Deliver service, the car will be brought straight to their door where they can take it for a solo test drive. There will be new contactless processes for completing paperwork so that everything will be organised before delivery. Even handing over keys will be done without any physical contact and using stringent sanitisation measures.
Customer service is at the heart of everything Arnold Clark does. The customer service team has remained active throughout lockdown, keeping customers informed, helping those in need where they can and even reserving new cars for some customers. As the business begins to reopen, we’ll begin sharing our new processes online or through customers’ preferred contact method so everyone will know exactly what to expect when they visit an Arnold Clark branch. It’s all part of the effort to make sure that our services are delivered to the highest standards while keeping employees and customers safe.