Sept. 27, 2004 – Easy Steps to Eliminating Telephone 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 during business hours and after hours.
DON’T greet your customers by telling them 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 or is even listening to info about your dealership until their needs are met?
DO list your dealership strengths but ONLY AFTER they have selected an option.
DON’T make your guests wait any longer for assistance than absolutely necessary. We all use the amount of time it takes to get 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 till 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 is 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 waiting through endless loops of options while being told how much the company values you, how it is the best, and how you will be assisted in the near indefinite future. Maybe.
Setting Up Your Phone System
So, how would I set up an auto attendant phone system? Here are a few ideas.
First, the greeting would be 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 as 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 while giving 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 UMP (unique marketing position). But ONLY sell after they have made a selection.
People do not listen until they feel understood (meeting needs). By allowing them to quickly pick a menu option that meets their immediate need they begin to feel their needs are being meet, and they will now hear what you are telling (selling) them.
For example: Press 2 for Service. As the call is being transferred to that department, you may present a selling message, such as: “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 another department feature/benefit followed by a few seconds of music and then just music until the call is answered by the department.
Third, after your guest has selected a menu option, it should be answered in 20 seconds. If it is not answered in 20 seconds, have it roll to the receptionist or someone who can listen to their needs. DO NOT SEND IT TO A MAILBOX!
Remember, if the greeting took five seconds, and the transfer to a department was not answered for 20 seconds and then it was rolled to someone else who took another 15 seconds for that person to answer, your guest has already been waiting for assistance for 40 seconds. That seems like a long time when you are navigating a phone system.
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 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 incoming lines available equal to 30% of your total staff that is available for customer support, regardless of the size of your dealership.
A Final Note. If your total annual sales volume is greater than $5 million, 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 will you 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.

Bill Shenk of PowerHouse Dealer Services may be reached at 866.896.3759 or email Bill@phdservices.com.

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