Dec. 8, 2003 – Dealer Checkup

Fixing your phone chaos
There is rarely a day that I do not call several different powersports dealerships. With astounding regularity I am appalled at how I am treated and what I hear or don’t hear.
If your dealership uses an automated answering system (auto attendant), here are a few do’s and don’ts you may want to consider when configuring your system.

  • DO have different greetings for business hours and for after hours.
  • DON’T greet your customers with how wonderful your dealership is, where you are located, and when it is convenient for you that your customers visit you (your store hours) before they have been given any routing options.
  • Do you really think anyone cares about— or is even listening to— information about your dealership until their needs are met? No.
  • DO list your dealership strengths but ONLY AFTER the caller has selected an option.
  • DON’T make your guests wait any longer for assistance than is absolutely necessary. We all use time needed to get desired products, information or services, as a big part of our opinion as to how well our needs were met.
  • Ever wonder why a good restaurant will not seat you even though tables are available? It is because they have learned that you will judge them from the time you sit down until you are served, and they cannot overrun the kitchen.
    Funny how waiting an hour for a table is a sign of a good restaurant but waiting 15 minutes to be waited on after being seated indicates a bad restaurant.
    I am convinced that a busy signal is the lesser of the evils to waiting on hold, leaving a message in a cold impersonal machine, or wading around through endless loops of options while being told how much the company values you, how they are the best, and that you will be assisted in the near indefinite future. Maybe!
    Setting up a phone system
    So, how would I set up an auto attendant phone system?

  • First. Produce a greeting that is energetic, sincere and short. “Thanks for calling Big Fun PowerSports. To help us serve you as quickly as possible, select 1 for Parts, 2 for Accessories, 3 for Service, 4 for Sales, 5 for store hours and directions or zero for our operator who will help you get the assistance you deserve.”
    Why 1 for Parts instead of Sales like in most dealerships? Here’s why: You receive more calls for Parts than any other department. So, if you can start taking care of your largest group of callers in four seconds instead of 15 seconds in addition and give them only information that is important to them at the moment, I can assure you they will be happier and easier to assist when you do take their call.
  • Second. Sell each department’s unique marketing position, but ONLY sell after the caller has made a selection. People by nature do not listen until they feel understood (needs met). By allowing them to quickly pick a menu option that meets their immediate need, they begin to feel their needs are being met, and they will now hear what you are telling (selling) them.
    Example: Press 2 for Service. As the call is being transferred to that department you may “sell.” For example: “At BIG FUN POWERSPORTS we believe you should never miss playtime, so we now offer one day and while-you-wait service options for tune-ups, oil changes, tires and most routine maintenance. Ask for details.”
    Play a few seconds of music and then present another department feature benefit, followed by a few seconds of music and then just music until the department answers the call.
  • Third. After your guest has selected a menu option, have the call roll to the receptionist or someone who can listen to their needs if the call is not answered in 20 seconds. DO NOT SEND IT TO A MAILBOX!
    If the greeting took five seconds, followed by the transfer to a department that did not answer, followed by a rollover to someone after 20 seconds, and it took another 20 seconds for that person to answer, your guest has already been waiting for assistance for 45 seconds. That seems like a long time when you are trying to get an answer to your important question.
  • Fourth. Only use mailboxes for after hours and personal calls. During business hours your guests should never default into a mailbox.
    Mailboxes can be a very effective time management tool if they are used by those you have relationships with and who have been given a mailbox extension number.
    Anyone who has answered a call can offer to take a message or transfer the caller to the appropriate person’s mailbox but it should always be your caller’s choice. If you cannot handle all your calls, then add people or limit your phone lines.
    It is my experience that customer satisfaction will suffer either on the floor or on the phone if your available incoming lines equal 30% of your total staff that is available for customer support, regardless of the size of your dealership.
  • AND LASTLY, if your total sales volume is greater than $5 million per year, your customers and prospects should rarely hear a recorded message. At this call volume, your cost per call to have a live, energetic, and caring person answering your incoming calls is minimal and the good you will create is huge.
    REMEMBER! Your telephone is just another door to your dealership. First impressions rule, and your phone guest’s view of your dealership is 100% controlled by how he or she was treated by your phone system, the staff member who took their call and the picture they created of your dealership.
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