Industry Leader Interview with Neil Atherton, Sales & Marketing Director, Autoglass

  1. What are the challenges facing your business right now, and how are you working to overcome them?

2020 has been an extremely challenging year for everyone.  From when the pandemic really took hold in March and we were all plunged into lockdown, forecasting volumes became a huge challenge and is one that we are still facing now. Whilst establishing the correct resourcing requirements, particularly in our technician and supply chain functions, remains a challenge, the full lockdown in March and April saw a change in the pattern of call volumes coming into our customer experience centre leading to us flex our resource to deal with the new timings of calls, changing work patterns and staffing levels at the ‘new’ peak times. To overcome this challenge, we looked to new tools and data, such as Apple Mobility data and fuel sales, to equip us with the best possible information to enable us to forecast.  Being part a global group also meant that we are able to learn from our sister companies overseas who had already experienced what we were and are going through. 

From a resourcing perspective, we had to make sure that our working environment was a safe as it possibly could be in order to minimise the risk that our colleagues faced.  In this regard, we have introduced numerous safety measures since the start of the pandemic; we have adapted our ways of working to ensure we are able to provide a contactless service, maintain social distancing, issuing facemasks and providing additional sanitisation for customers vehicles through our TouchPoint and Full Interior services.

  • What has been your biggest business learning from the coronavirus pandemic?

My biggest learning from this pandemic is the need to be able to respond quickly and to be more open-minded when making decisions. We’re now looking at our business through a different lens and with a mindset that anything is now possible.

  • As we go to a “new normal” what are you looking forward to returning to and practices will you keep?

The “new normal” is still unknown and for now, we can’t really say what it’s going to be.  Although I am sure that when we do get there, it is likely to change again! What I am looking forward to though, is the human interaction part of life returning; having those face to face meetings and seeing people in person again.  That said, it is inevitable that we will end up with a much more balanced split between working from home and having interaction in an office environment.

We had to be agile and decisive when the pandemic hit, we emptied our offices and introduced many new safety measures very quickly.  Whilst these practices will remain for the foreseeable future, I am equally as keen to see us maintain the decisiveness and flexibility that we demonstrated exists within our capability.

  • If you could go back to the beginning of 2020, what piece of advice would you give to yourself?

To look at everything with an open mind.  The events that have unfolded since March have really shown us that anything is possible and that we need to have an open mind in addressing the future.  Despite the tough times that we have had throughout 2020, every crisis presents an opportunity and our opportunity in this regard is to evaluate how we work and to make positive changes.

  • What would be your prediction for the industry in 2021?

Coronavirus is going to be here for a while yet and I believe that it is something that we are going to have to learn to live with for a very long time. This means that we will need to find ways to deal with the implications that it has on our everyday life.

I don’t believe that 2021 will see our industry being back to 100% of pre-pandemic levels.  However, I do believe that it will be better than 2020 and that’s definitely something to look forward to.


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