Are you open? Are you closed? What should I expect? As we continue to adjust to the daily changes we see in our lives due to the pandemic, these are just some of the questions associates at local AAA stores are asked each day.
“Probably the biggest question that I’m getting from members is knowing if we’re still open for full services, whether they can still come in the office, whether we have curbside service – just basically what benefits we have available to them at this point,” says Jina Force-Ely, Membership Sales Specialist at the AAA store in Troy, Ohio.
Luckily for members and the public, AAA stores are open, and associates are ready to help. With full member services available, local AAA stores have added extra precautions and services to keep both associates and members safe during the pandemic.
According to Force-Ely, AAA stores are ready for members and customers when they’re comfortable. “We welcome our members. They’re welcome to come into the stores. We’re doing all the necessary measures to make sure they feel safe, and [we’re] keeping the office clean for our members.”
KEEPING IT CLEAN AND EVOLVING SERVICE
Cale Green has been an insurance agent at AAA for 2 years. During this tenure, he's helped numerous clients perfect their personalized insurance policies as they've sat across from him at his desk. But these days, things are a bit different as clients find new and more remote ways to access their insurance policies while still maintaining a personal touch.
“As far as servicing clients, it’s definitely changed since the pandemic. I think a lot of things have gone virtual – a lot more phone calls, a lot more walking through with the members how to make a payment [online], and how to access their policies,” says Green.
Across the store, Car Care Manager Jamie Ferrence has been working to help customers find convenient ways to drop their vehicles for new tires and automotive service so they can avoid sitting in the waiting area.
“We try to encourage members and non-members [to] drop their cars and leave them, or [to] utilize our night drop box so that there’s less people actually waiting in the showroom,” says Ferrence. “A lot of folks have taken advantage of that.”
Ferrence partners with Retail Manager Tricia Studebaker to coordinate deep cleans of the Troy, Ohio store five days a week by a professional cleaning company. In addition, associates are quick to clean high-touch areas frequently throughout the day to ensure customer and associate safety. Safety and cleanliness are a priority for both Ferrence and Studebaker, as they’ve added hand sanitizers at associate desks and in waiting areas and have spaced out the seating in the waiting areas to be socially distanced. Masks are also required for store associates and customers.
"From a physical standpoint, the stores look a lot different," says Studebaker. We have a hand sanitizing station. We have sneeze guards up at the associates' desks. And then, we also have stickers on the floor to encourage six-foot social distancing. We also have [associates] spaced out in the office to where they're seated six feet apart."
For customers that don’t feel comfortable entering the retail environment, AAA stores have started providing curbside service. According to Studebaker, this means no disruption to member service.
“One thing I wish members knew about our local AAA store is that we currently offer curbside service. Members can call into our of our associates, they can order maps and TourBooks, even an on-demand TripTik, and we can deliver those safely out to their car,” says Studebaker.
In addition to curbside service, AAA stores have started carrying new products to help customers cope with the pandemic. Many of the new products can be purchased online and shipped to a local store location for added convenience.
“Since the pandemic, we’ve had to add a couple more items to our store for the safety of our members. We sell hand sanitizer now. We have face masks. We have the “G-Key,” which helps when you’re traveling so you can open doors [and] push buttons, just [with] less contact. And then we’re also carrying a sanitary travel kit for our members,” says Force-Ely.
To provide Members with additional services during the pandemic, local AAA stores recently began partnering with Amazon to provide Amazon Hub Counters and Amazon Locker locations. Across the country, customers can have their Amazon shipments sent to their local AAA store for added security and for no charge.
PROTECTING YOUR JOURNEY
As a result of the pandemic, traveling with confidence is more important than ever. And in her 26 years as a AAA Travel agent, Dawn Widney considers it her duty to provide her travel clients with peace of mind that their journeys will be protected.
“Most of the common questions are where can I travel that is a safe destination that I’m allowed to go to? ‘What will happen to my money in a booking that I am making for future travel should I need to cancel the trip?” says Widney. “And we’re definitely assuring our clients of travel insurance, and many of our tour vendors are offering credits should a destination close.”
While most travel clients are booking travel for late-2021 and beyond, and Widney is prepared to help pair clients with the right vacation that’s in their travel comfort zone, whether it’s sooner or later.
“Clients can feel free to come in at any time and sit at my desk with me. We have clean surface areas. I have plenty of private space in my cubicle around me. So, I encourage anyone that would like to walk in that door. I am here,” says Widney. “It’s providing that peace of mind to our clients regarding travel questions that they have and securing their money.”
HERE WHEN YOU’RE READY
From face masks to hand sanitizer, from car maintenance to home insurance quotes with an elbow bump, AAA stores are open, and associates are ready to help.
“I think during this pandemic, that’s been a really important thing that members appreciate is they have someone they can talk to,” says Green. “Even if it’s just about their day or things going on, we’ll sit, we’ll listen to them. And we like to hear about it and talk to them back. So, we enjoy that part of it. And I think the customers do, as well.”
“We’ve been around for over 100 years,” says Green. “We plan to be around for that much longer.”