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COVID Policy Update

Safety precautions, HR initiatives and smart marketing keep all Craftsman shops open

Extreme times may call for extreme measures, but it’s a thoughtful, multi-pronged approach to the COVID-19 pandemic that has been keeping Western Canada’s largest auto body collision repair chain humming.

Sales at the 43-shop Craftsman Collision chain did slump somewhat during the COVID month of March, but only by 12 percent – less than required by the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidies (CEWS) available to businesses suffering declines of 15 percent or more. Losses in April met the government’s 30 percent eligibility threshold, but could have been a lot worse.

Keeping customers and staff safe

Business strategies devised under the direction of CEO and owner Bill Hatswell – with the support of company president Rick Hatswell, COO Mike O’Callaghan and the senior management team – have made the difference. Initiatives like sanitizing vehicles and installing protective steering wheel covers, seat covers and floor mats have helped dispel both germs and fears. Among front office staff, physical barriers, staggered job shifts and in some cases reduced hours have further minimized transmission risks.

COVID-19 health and safety plan

A COVID-19 safety plan orchestrated by company Health, Safety and Environment Manager Cheryl Feddema deals with COVID-related health hazards, risk assessment and controls, and addresses all preventative measures laid out by health organizations and government bodies. As an extra precaution, all employees must complete a COVID awareness training course.

Employee and family assistance programs to help mitigate the stress of COVID-19

“The coronavirus outbreak and the necessary public health measures to contain its spread are creating stress for employees and their families,” says HR Manager Jennifer Burton. “We’ve been reminding all our employees that our LifeWorks employee and family assistance program is available to them to help with any issues around mental health, finances, parenting or elder care. We’ve also been working closely with anyone who has specific challenges or concerns.”

Our Craftsman Collision family remains healthy

So far no Craftsman Collision employee has tested positive for the virus, which speaks to the success of the measures and to the company’s abiding concern for the safety of its 550-member employee family. As a result of the company’s strategies – both business and safety-related – not a single Craftsman shop has closed or suspended operations.

Enhancing the Craftsman Collision Sparkle to make our shops shine

“Rick (Hatswell) was really committed to keeping all our shops open – to maintain our presence in the market, and to help our employees retain their jobs during the crisis and post-COVID,” says Burton. “Shops with less volume are cleaning and painting. They’ll look brand new when this is all over, and help us boost what we call the Craftsman sparkle.”

Complimentary vehicle pick-up and drop-off

To encourage customers not to put off repairs, Craftsman has launched a series of ads on radio, TV, social media and its website to promote the measures, which include free pick-up and delivery so customers can get a full repair job without leaving home. At the auto body shops, large banners and sandwich boards alert passers-by that Craftsman is still open and that the two-way valet service is available.

Morale remains high among Craftsman employees, says Chief Financial Officer Holger Laakmann. Voluntary leaves of absence have been popular among employees with vulnerable housemates, and three-quarters of head office staff have opted to work from home with occasional office visits. Laakmann says the transition has been surprisingly smooth. The company is also taking full advantage of tax payment deferrals offered by the federal and provincial governments, he says.

“So far, the impact of the pandemic hasn’t been as bad for business as we expected,” says Rick Hatswell. “Kudos to our governments for getting the message out and the timing right, and especially to all the health care workers who are putting their own safety on the line for the good of us all. Our many operational and logistical adjustments seem to be getting us through the worst of this, and I believe will pay even bigger dividends when the pandemic is over.”

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