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Things on My Mind: Phones

The number one thing on my mind this week for our dealers is phones. How good or bad you are with phones can directly affect the kind of year you are going to have financially. This may be something that you pay active attention to or have let slip during the past few years. But it is front and center to me to ask our dealers and my store as well: “How good are we on the phone?” It can be the difference between gaining a customer instantly or ruining your reputation with someone in a second. Here are the things we need to look at:

  1. How Many? The question of how many calls we are getting each month is something most people cannot easily answer. Are you trusting what your people are logging into your CRM, or do you have a service where you can see the call volume? As Google expands and click-to-call features have become more adopted by the mainstream public, how are we tracking our progression with phone call growth? Knowing a real number of phone opportunities is step one.
  1. First Impression? What is a caller’s first impression of your dealership? This came up in a meeting recently where a store bragged about how good they were on the phones, but the receptionist sounded terrible. From the instant the phone is answered to the end of the call, you need to display the highest level of professionalism. Are we selling that we are here to service the customer or that it is an interruption that someone actually picked up the phone to call the dealership and ask a question? Delivering an excellent first impression will make the call have a greater outcome.
  1. Level of Service? Similar to the previous point, are we going out of our way to help the caller? In my own store, I heard a call where an associate told a customer the car they were calling about was sold, and then quickly ended the call. The associate showed no interest in telling them that while this car was sold, we have several more like it that we would love to tell you about. And when someone is calling service to check on their vehicle, are we excited and motivated to let them know we are taking great care of their car and will have it completed by a certain time? Going above and beyond with our service and communicating it with customers will keep them coming back.
  1. Is It Easy? A lot of dealers use the phrase, “We make it easy.” But when it comes to the phones, is it really that easy to get a live person? Or are the callers going through overly-complicated menu prompts and pressing numbers like when you call a big-box chain and never get anyone? Then, once they do go through the menus, how fast are we picking up the call? I know staffing is an issue everywhere still, but are we making our phone process as easy as we can to generate more business, or are we a source of frustration just like calling the cable company?
  1. Whose Job to Manage? While stores and set-ups are different, someone needs to be the single point of management to oversee the phones. It doesn’t have to be a controller or office manager to make sure there is a shift schedule, but who is managing the quality of the calls? Who is managing the time it takes to get someone connected? Who is making sure people are trained and motivated to do great on the phones? There needs to be accountability for the quality of the phone process, and it starts at the top.

Every dealer I know wants more traffic. But are we handling the traffic that we are getting in a manner that makes you proud of your staff or that makes you cringe when you hear it? Every dealer I know wants more trades and off-the-street purchases of used cars. So, are we answering the phones with a message and tone of “Thank you for calling – are you calling about selling us your car?” These are all things that have made me rethink how phones are being handled, which can make our dealers more money.

John Paul Strong

John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 140 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.

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