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MELBOURNE new-car dealer Paul Hopper is right on the front foot when it comes to customer and staff safety during the pandemic with in-store hygiene now enhanced due to an innovative program to employ COVID-19 safety assistants within showrooms.

Mr Hopper, director of Hopper Motor Group, which has eight franchises in three locations in Werribee, Essendon and Southbank, said the “COVID safety assistants” came about as an extension of a program started in May of constantly cleaning premises to minimise any virus transmission.

“We adopted an almost hospital-grade level of attention to detail about cleanliness and hygiene,” he told GoAutoNews Premium.

“It was so well-received by customers and staff that we looked more closely at how it could be made part of the business and create permanent positions for people to keep the dealerships safe from the virus.

“The people we had at Essendon Hyundai made sure any surface was wiped down, that customer lounge chairs were cleaned when the customer left, that the coffee machine was regularly cleaned, inside cars that are being serviced in the workshop and even things like cleaning door handles.

“It made an immediate difference to the sense of safety shown by customers and staff. I think that it is vital that during this period we do all we can as a dealership to maximise the safety of others.

“The feedback we have is fantastic. It includes people saying they feel more relaxed and less concerned about catching the virus and, because of that, they are happier and more willing to stay longer at our dealerships.”

Mr Hopper said his company was now recruiting people to become COVID safety assistants and envisaged up to 12 people would be employed working in shifts to constantly clean the sites.

The assistants will wear hi-vis jackets – which are now being made – and operate from the group’s Werribee and Essendon stores.

The group has also fitted the showrooms with fever cameras at the entry points that scan visitors and staff and detect any abnormally high body temperatures. These provide a quick, non-contact way of checking for people potentially carrying the virus.

It also has guest log-in recordings at each showroom that uses a QR code scanner.

“We previously used a log-in system of pen and paper but, of course, that can transmit a virus,” Mr Hopper said.

“So we have found the QR code scan is quick and easy and is contactless.”

The additions to the group’s outlets has not come cheap but Mr Hopper believes the results are worth the expense.

Like other dealerships in Melbourne, HMG has re-opened for business after 12 weeks of being closed to the public.

In a notice to his employees, Mr Hopper said the dealerships had been deep cleaned with the hospital-grade anti-viral Zoono, has installed the QR code entrance registers, added fever cams, maintains the policy of wearing approved masks, and will follow with the employment of casual COVID safety assistants.

By Neil Dowling

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