-by Sally Whitesell for AutoSuccess Magazine.
When a potential guest calls your store, they want your store to be the place they will spend their money. The sale is yours to lose. Unfortunately, we often think of phone calls as something we need to “get handled” and hire a minimum wage employee with a nice voice to fill this position. Yet this person has the power to drive business in or drive them away… permanently! Instead, you should ask yourself a simple question:
What kind of first impression is given when someone calls your dealership?
As business owners and managers, we keep our fingers on the pulse of sales, profits, ROI, and guest surveys, but it’s hard to track the lost opportunities due to a poor initial contact and a bad first impression.
Whoever answers the phone at your store is on the front line. If they aren’t experts at bringing the guest into your store, they are costing you a lot of opportunities. This is why phone skills training for your receptionists should be a top priority.
Telephone positions require much more than a cheerful voice with a willingness to help. In fact, the willingness to help can often lead to sharing misinformation that can cause potential clients to hang up or to have unrealistic expectations when they do arrive. In order to avoid these situations this position should be a top priority.
Receptionists should be trained to greet professionally, use basic phone etiquette, transfer calls to the right people, give correct store information, and schedule check-in times. They are not the right person to quote prices or give automotive advice. They should speak slowly and clearly, treating the guest as someone they have been looking forward to speaking with. They should also instill confidence that they can give accurate guidance and direction.
The goal of this position is simple; get the guest into your store!
Most receptionists aren’t fully aware of the impact they have on your bottom line; and the truth is, they will never care as much as you do. That’s why you have to be consistent in requiring telephone training, and monitoring calls regularly.
Owners often request that we mystery shop their stores or listen to recorded incoming calls in order to prepare training or give an evaluation of their employees’ performance. This is an eye-opening experience. Many of you would be mortified by the attitudes we encounter as well as ignorance of simple information like the names of your managers or even the hours of the service department.
So how do we get started?
First, decide who should handle which calls. For example, questions about anything related to service should go to an advisor unless it is simply setting an appointment/check-in time. It is critical to provide employees with guidelines so they will know what should be passed on to more qualified personnel.
Secondly, establish the proper way to handle calls by training with word tracks and practicing scenarios by role-playing. Greetings and word tracks should not merely be a suggestion for phone calls; they should be required as part of your company policies.
Thirdly, listen to your staff on the phone regularly. Make notes or, if possible, share the recordings. Let them tell you what they think about the call, starting with the positive and then critiquing themselves. Often they are surprised by how they sound and can figure out on their own how they can improve. Review the good points from your perspective and gently point out the areas that could use improvement if they missed any.
Fourthly, inspect what you expect. With training there must be accountability, otherwise we naturally revert to old habits. Decide who will be in charge of weekly reviews and mystery shopping and make it a part of their schedule. This training will take time and commitment, but must become a top priority because customers rarely give second chances. There isn’t anyone in your facility that has more of an opportunity to give a “WOW” first impression than the person on the phone.
Keep in mind: every ring is an opportunity to grow your business and should be heard as…”CHA-CHING!”