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What it’s like buying a car during the pandemic

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 8:07 AM EST
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Jobs in sales can be an intimate experience, building connections to sell customers a product. And if that product is a car, it’s been a world of change due to the pandemic.

At Paya’s North, they specialize in rebuilt vehicles, so everything has been repaired from some sort of damage. That means when people come to look for a car, they want to see the car and test it out.

“It has changed the way we do everything, which hasn’t been a bad thing. We have gotten some really positive feedback out of it,” said Carrie Paya Matthews, the dealership’s business manager.

She says what started as a totally contactless experience has been reshaped and changed as knowledge about COVID-19 progressed. Despite being appointment only, Matthews says they are still functioning.

“Our sales staff would do everything over the phone, through email. Basically, go through everything with the car over the phone first,” said Paya Matthews.

She says dealers of all sorts of cars are operating under their own protocols, but that offering options can provide comfort for the customer. A big part of buying a car is testing it out, something Paya Matthews says is crucial for the buyer.

“Off they would go on their test drive and off they’d go on a test drive, and they would come back and we would talk with them over the phone while they were sitting outside our door,” she said.

She says because of the prechecking process and encouraging people to only pursue cars they are really interested in, they were able to continue to make sales.

“Now, more so than in the beginning of COVID, people are more out test-driving, and that is what we are trying to avoid. We are just trying to stress that if you see something on our lot that you are very interested in, we are going to go over it, we are taking pictures of any flaws the car has. OK, here is a little dent, here is a little scratch, we want to make sure they see the car in its entirety before we make an appointment for them to come in because we really only want serious buyers here,” said Paya Matthews.

The protocol has since loosened a bit, allowing for more interaction, but ultimately it is still up to the customer.

“Being open to adapting to what the customer needs and what they are comfortable with in terms of the pandemic,” said Tom Patterson, a sales and marketing associate with Paya’s.

He says he can go through everything about the cars in person, over the phone, and even walk people through the sanitizing process. “The more thorough we were in explaining how much doing it the right way and doing it safe is important, really made them more comfortable and in turn made us more comfortable,” said Patterson.

Patterson says now that they have been working through it, ultimately, it will make salespeople more flexible.

“It’s working around the restrictions of COVID, but don’t give up, we can do it and we can do it right,” said Patterson.

Paya Matthews also says one of the other keys in making sure they are staying COVID safe is every time a car comes back from a test drive, they are able to park it around back, let it sit for 24 hours and then sanitize it. It’s a commitment, but she says it keeps their staff and customers safe.

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