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Phone Call Dos and Don’ts

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Phone Call Etiquette

Customer service doesn’t just occur within the walls of your shop. Customer service carries over onto social media, email, and the phone. According to Kevin Levi, vice president of marketing for OrecX, a phone recording company aiding in customer service, a phone conversation can make or break a sale.

“These days, with the customers being in charge and so many different industries out there, you have to focus on customer service,” Levi says. “It builds tremendous goodwill, it builds additional revenue, and it helps you retain your customers.”

Mark Doornbos knows a thing or two when it comes to customer service over the phone. As the general manager of Dytech Auto Group—owner of seven service facilities in Michigan.—he sets up phone training with Elite for his service advisors. Through what they’ve learned, here are common phone call mistakes they’ve seen in the past—and what to do instead.

Don’t: Let just anyone take calls.

The technicians working at your shop should be well trained on repairs, but most likely do not have customer service training.

Instead: Assign duties to a specific person.

This is where a service advisor comes in, with the sole purpose of focusing on customer service. This ensures the best person for the job is talking to customers. At Dytech Auto Group’s shops, the only employees allowed to answer the phones are those that have been trained on customer service over the phone. 

If no one is able to answer, or it rings more than three times or so, customers have the option to leave a message or are routed to a phone in the back so someone can help them, which usually is a technician. While technicians aren’t trained on phones necessarily, they are trained to answer the phone like a service advisor and ask the customer to hold until they can find the right person to talk to.

Don’t: Be short when answering.

While most customers know they are calling the shop to schedule a service, Levi says it’s a bad business practice to not identify yourself or who you work for over a call. Doornbos says one of the worst things to do is to answer in a hurry because it makes the customer feel like he or she is an inconvenience. 

Instead: Establish all of the details.

The first thing the service advisor should do when he or she picks up the phone is provide his or her name, organization, and a, “How can I help you today?” In return, ask for the customer's name and phone number. That way, if the customer gets disconnected, they can easily be called back. 

Since so many of Dytech’s customers drop off their vehicles before they even open, Doornbos tells service advisors to get as much information as possible over the phone before their scheduled service so they can efficiently send customers their digital vehicle inspection reports. 

And, before the call has ended, always confirm all of the details of the appointment. This includes the date, time, services being performed, and who is working on the car that day.

Don’t: Sound scripted.

It can be hard for service advisors to remember everything to cover on the phone, so some customer service providers use phone scripts to fill in the gaps. However, Levi says this runs the risk of coming across robotic.

Instead: Create a checklist.

Instead of a word-for-word phone script, a bullet-pointed list can be used to help create a more personalized experience without forgetting certain questions or steps in between.

While a mini script is ingrained in Doornbos’s service advisors when answering a call—Thanks for calling Dykstra’s Auto Service, this is X; how can I help you today?—Elite has taught the service advisors to build rapport with customers to not sound so scripted. And instead of a physical checklist, all of the questions that need answering are built into the shop’s management system.

Don’t: Guess at answering a question. 

What if a customer asks a question to the person manning the front desk and they aren’t 100 percent certain of the answer? 

Instead: Search for the answer.

“When it comes to answering a question you aren’t sure about, you should never guess,” Levi says.

Instead, the service advisor should put the customer on hold or call back. If it concerns policies, look it up. If it has to do with the vehicle itself, go out and ask the technician. It all comes down to liability.

“You’re protecting yourself and you're protecting your customer,” Levi says.

Don’t: Diagnose over the phone.

Doornbos’s big no-no rule? Never give an estimate over the phone. The service the customer is requesting could be a totally different issue than what the customer believes and could result in a different price point.

Instead: Get the customer to come in.

If the customer is that concerned over the price, Doornbos says that may not be your ideal customer. 

But, if the customer asks for the price, Dytech’s service advisors are trained to say that it’s hard to give a price over the phone when so many different factors are involved, adding that they can’t give the customer a fair and honest estimate over the phone without seeing the vehicle first. The one price you can quote over the phone, however? A diagnosis fee.

Don’t: Hard sell the customer.

Although it’s the service advisor’s job to sell the recommended repairs, Levi says that doing this over the phone can sometimes make customers feel as though the shop is trying to get more money out of them. 

Instead: Advise.

Advise the customer on the services needed and give your personal suggestions. You can tactfully make the sale and capitalize on it without doing it in a pushy way, Levi says. 

For example, if a customer calls to install new brake pads, the service advisor can simply ask, “When’s the last time you got your tires rotated?” or ask about any other maintenance service due. That way, you’re trying to advise the customer on what the vehicle really needs instead of trying to sell something he or she doesn’t need.

Don’t: Neglect the follow-up.

Customers are prone to leave a review or speak up when it’s a big enough inconvenience for them, but many may still leave the shop unhappy and not come back. 

Instead: Follow up.

Following up with a customer after a service allows the customer to give feedback on how the service went, as well as gives the shop an opportunity to correct the problem, and schedule a future service.

By following up on the service, it gives the customer the opportunity to bring up any issues, big or small—and allows you to fix it. 

And while you have the customer on the phone, bring up the car’s next service due date and schedule a future appointment.

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