Jane Pocock, Copart’s MD explains how the company has remained operational throughout the pandemic.
As a company that has remained operational throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, Copart’s MD Jane Pocock took part in a webinar with The Vehicle Remarketing Association to explain how this has been possible and share some workplace best practise as other businesses start looking towards a return to work.
When the COVID-19 crisis first emerged, we were quickly recognised as an essential service to the insurance sector due to the total loss vehicle collections we make on their behalf. We, therefore, had to respond very rapidly to ensure that we could continue to perform this vital service, while also having the correct measures in place to protect our people working at the frontline of our business.
From the outset, when the lockdown was announced, we created a Copart COBRA team comprised of senior management to manage how we would run our essential operations, discuss how we would look after our customers, staff and buyers and how we would manage concerns as well as interpret government advice and various compliance issues.
We’ve continued to hold daily review meetings and have found them to be hugely beneficial for managing our operations and shaping both our internal and external communications, which we are sending out regularly.
We have kept our 15 UK Operations Centres fully operational, although we closed the doors to the public coming in to collect vehicles and insurance engineers coming in to inspect vehicles, reverting to a delivery-only service to our Members.
Fortunately, our entire sales process is already digital, and we don’t hold any physical auctions, so fundamentally the business could still operate during lockdown.
From the moment we’re assigned a vehicle through to the final customer sale, it’s a completely digital journey. We have apps to arrange collections and deliveries, digital vehicle documentation and online auctions and payment options. So, we’re as much a tech business as well as a logistics business and are fortunate that we can provide a contactless customer journey during this period.
Our Operations Centres are large enough that our staff have been able to safely social-distance and since the lockdown we’ve continued to provide additional layers of protection for our Operations Centre staff by fitting more perspex screens to our counters and subdividing the office desks.
We have of course been following government guidelines every step of the way during the lockdown and have created risk assessments as necessary as we’ve gone along.
We also have a very large network of transporters, so we’ve been following government guidelines for collecting vehicles and providing sufficient PPE for our drivers to do that. Fortunately, most of the cars we’re handling have not had significant human contact for quite some time before we collect them and then they sit on the ground with us for a period of time while they go through our processes before they are delivered. So, in terms of transmission, we have been in a more fortunate position than other vehicle retailers may be.
One of the things we’ve seriously ramped up during lockdown is communication. We’ve been communicating regularly with our staff, which is particularly important to remote workers because anyone based at our Head Office who performs admin related processes was quickly transitioned to working from home. So, we’ve been managing our company divided into two, which has, of course, had its challenges, but it has also been an incredible learning experience and has really highlighted our resilience and adaptability.
A New Normal
We’ve had no massive concerns about maintaining our essential services throughout this period. We are probably operating at about half the volume we were at the same time last year and are still collecting a considerable number of cars daily in the total loss arena.
In terms of selling, our business hasn’t changed in that we are still running our daily online auctions at midday which have continued as normal and sales are all processed online. Previously we did have an element of cash handling which has now reverted to online payments, so we’ve not experienced any major issues with running with that side of the business.
When it comes to delivering the vehicles which have been purchased, in a similar way to click and collect, we have reverted to a click and deliver service. And, with the roads being quieter than normal we have been able to deliver a lot more vehicles than we normally would.
We’ve also been working with customers on the environmental/waste management side of the business, so collecting CAT A vehicles, such as burn-outs, has continued but on a smaller capacity. We have been able to manage this with the relevant social distancing and protection in place.
We’re continually digesting all the Government information and are in regular communication with the environment agency and trading standards so we can be fully prepared when we eventually begin a phased re-opening to Members at our Operations Centres. But for now, volumes are continuing to increase, and we still have a lot of vehicle inventory on the ground…so far, so good.
Our application of PPE, hygiene practises and cleaning regimes are working well so we will continue these. Our Head Office staff will stay home working for now and we plan to eventually reintroduce people to the workplace in a very phased manner and probably on a rota system which will enable them to come in for meetings or to touch base with their managers.
We’re fortunate that as a global business we have always been very technology-led, and it’s allowed us to have meetings and communicate with established digital processes, so in terms of running our business not too much has changed.
With regards to volumes going back to normal, because the government is discouraging the use of public transport, we’re of the view that it will clearly drive more people into cars in the foreseeable future and this will certainly have an impact. Our workload has increased by 10% over the last ten days so we are seeing more cars in circulation and if the car park gets older through an economic downturn our business will see an increase in volume.
We offer people the opportunity to potentially acquire a car with maybe some superficial accident damage that could be rectified. This offers people a very cheap driving solution for the ‘here and now’ and we are certainly seeing an increase in requests for those type of vehicles.
It’s interesting times, but we’ve managed to maintain our normal position thanks to our innovative technology and the resiliency and adaptability of our staff. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved throughout this crisis and of what I know we’ll continue to achieve in the future.