With customers at home, business messages, practices get more flexible

Posted April 24, 2020 5:23 p.m. EDT

For businesses able to continue to operate under the North Carolina stay-at-home order, the mission has changed, as has the message to customers.

Many restaurants quickly changed their business model – from dining in to takeout and delivery – in order to stay open during the pandemic. Other businesses have made similar changes to stay in touch with customers in the safest possible way.

Car dealerships are using interest-free loans, months with no payments and even extending the terms of loans to entice buyers. For Lisa Vanderberry, a nurse at a residential facility for children in Raleigh, the deals were just too good to pass up.

"I'd seen several ads on TV about the deals that were out there," she said. She settled on a new Kia Soul.

Mark Roberts, spokesman for Capital Auto Group, said it goes beyond deals.

"You can do the whole car process without ever showing up at the dealership," he said. "About 30% are willing to do it online; 70% want to come in in person."

Buyers can meet with a salesperson online or outside, where "showroom tables have been moved outside if you're wanting to work through your purchases at the dealership," he said.

It's about making customers feel safe throughout the process.

"It reassures folks when they see the cleaning and that you’re doing the things you should be doing these days," Roberts said.

Vanderberry was impressed.

"It was all very easy, very clean, I didn't have any issues at all," she said. "Now I just need my Wonder Woman sticker to go on the car and everything will be complete."

That same level of cleanliness extends to Capital's service departments, Roberts said.

"They ask people to leave their keys in the vehicle, they come out, they sanitize the car, take it, perform the service, sanitize in front of you, leave the keys in your car," he said.

Business owners say many of the coronavirus-era practices, especially interacting with customers virtually, are likely continue.

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