What Small Businesses Can Do to Help with COVID-19 Situation
During the last few days, I've been thinking a lot about what to do to help with the "COVID-19 situation". For sure, #1 thing is I'm staying at home. That's key, period. And it is also what most of us can do. But once you are home... what else can you do?
My mom, back in Cuba, built for herself and my dad a few facemasks using a sewing machine. That is awesome! It may not be the right one, or even the thing can be a complete failure, but she is doing what she can. And that got me thinking about it for a few days: What can my business do to help? What can my website for transferring automotive leasing contracts do?
A Personal Business Context
If I had a small facemask factory, or even just "a machine," I would have started building those already. My company does not have at all the capacity of General Motors to lend logistics and materials to ramp up the production of ventilators, and I don't have either a high-end 3D printer to start printing facemasks from HP's free released model.
So, I kept looking for ideas.
In the meantime, and while occasionally thinking about it, I've been facing the new reality of the lockdown. My business operations, as most of the businesses in North America, were heading to a halt. Like most sectors today, the automotive industry got into a sudden PAUSE. Car dealerships are closed most Canadian provinces and will continue to close on the remaining ones. Most businesses were ordered to stop unless these played a crucial role in helping the country fight against COVID-19.
So I started getting in touch with our primary service providers: web hosting, third-party services we use, either for marketing or content management, licensing platforms, operations, partners, and so on. And then, a pattern started to emerge: most service providers my company relies on, had an option for me. I still couldn't believe it.
Our primary marketing provider offered to credit our monthly subscription for one month because we've been using it for over four years.
Our website hosting partner came up with a plan downgrade alternative while keeping the current performance our website requires.
One of our main third-party services provider offered to push back two months our monthly subscription.
Our vehicle lien report provider offered all clients to waive a monthly account management fee for the next cycle.
On the personal side, HydroQuebec, the electricity company, has notified all customers that no late interest charges will be applied during the next 30 days.
And samples go on and on:
Top 6 major banks in Canada will allow customers in need to push back their mortgage payments for up to 6 months.
The Canadian Government will be designating $27 billion in direct supports and another $55 billion to help business liquidity through tax deferrals.
The city of Montreal has pushed back one month the parking regulation period to allow people not to move their vehicles during these days. Street cleaning and parking tickets represent a considerable amount of revenue for the city.
Just to mention a few examples - damn, all these companies and institutions are willing to take the hit with me -. Or at least, to share part of the impact to help others get through this period.
That was when I realized as if I were a little kid (or at least I experienced it that way), you don't need to build specific medical supplies to help. You can do way more things as a business:
How to help others with Our Company
Thinking deeply about it, the best way to help is by focusing on the needs of our customers. These continue to exist during these days, although selling the car is an in-person process and must be avoided right now. But that doesn't mean you cannot find buyers and get most of the process done! Our clients can literally complete about 90% of the process remotely and finalize the sale when public health allows to do so.
First, bringing all operations home. Although we've been doing it for a while, we re-confirmed everyone that all our operations were going to continue exclusively online and over the phone. It is always a good reminder. #stayhome
Second, we went for the pieces of advice on how to continue helping our customer sales while keeping them safe. Videocall meetings, a digital copy of documents and pushing meetings and test-drives for the future, when local authorities recommend doing so.
And as third and the most critical step: the aspect of how financially help our customers. We decided to waive the fees for the reporting system and will provide an additional credit for marketing on external marketing platforms such as Kijiji and Autotrader to increase the exposure of the listings. This way we can help them obtain a better amount of leads while we keep our profit margins low enough to cover costs, but aligned with the reality of the current situation.
All was properly described and notified to LeaseCosts tens of thousands of users while establishing the processes in place to make it all work. It will be tough and expensive for us. Even riskier, as our operations will be riding on top of the bottom line, but we all have to help each other to make this work. Thanks to those who did the same for us, we can do it for you, and we can also spread virally. You hear me COVID-19!?
If you have a small business and you can still operate, I invite you to join the movement and hit the virus where it hurts the most: helping people stay inside while their financial world doesn't collapse.
The letter to our customers
Dear customers, friends, and — more than anything — fellow Canadians,
We here at LeaseCosts Canada Inc. have been closely monitoring all developments around the world and, more specifically, in Canada regarding COVID-19. We are doing everything in our hands to help protect our customers and our staff.
Following the directives from the Gouvernement du Québec, the Canadian Federal Government and Canadian Public Health authorities, we have decided the following:
That all our services will continue to operate uninterrupted online and over the phone during regular hours.
Our staff will continue working and providing remote online and phone assistance from the safety of their homes.
All customers can still access our services and are encouraged to remain home at all times.
We understand that LeaseCosts plays a crucial role in the financial budget of Canadians who require transferring their car lease contracts. During these difficult times, there is also a surge in need for transferring the contracts due to the economic impact the virus is creating among Canadians' finances at home.
This is why we have decided to take the following measures:
For Vehicle Buyers
We encourage you all to do not travel to review and test-drive the vehicles. Explore video-calling alternatives such as Face Time, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts to meet the sellers. Schedule in-person meetings or test-drives only after the COVID-19 threat disappears, and your local authorities recommend so.
Request a digital copy of all contract documents. It enhances transparency and clarifies most questions regarding the contract's financial details. Avoid requesting or receiving printed copies.
Evaluate the alternatives of running the Credit Applications with dealerships over the phone. This is entirely doable once car leaders resume operations.
Stay home. Be safe for you, your family, and us all.
For Vehicle Sellers
We will be waving the Lease Takeover Analysis fees for all new submissions until May 1st, 2020. Our staff will perform the reports at no cost to all new customers.
All new package purchases will include an additional 22.95CAD credit towards marketing on external vehicle sale platforms. We will go further with the exposure of the listings to help you obtain as many quality leads as possible for your contract.
For Insurance Buyers
Continue to evaluate your insurance premium alternatives over the phone without physically leaving your home.
Further measures may be announced in the following weeks, while the situation progresses.
We are all living an unprecedented challenging time, but I'm confident we will get through this. I wish you all, your loved ones, all Canadians and every other person on this planet to stay safe. Let's be responsible, take care of each other, and do it for the most vulnerable ones.
CEO LeaseCosts Canada Inc.
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