Maximize Your Phone Dollars
As increasingly more interactions become digital or automated, customers have high expectations for when it is actually necessary to reach another human being. In 2011, Gartner Research predicted that 85 percent of customer interactions will involve non-humans by 2020. While this doesn’t mean that everyone will rely on chatbots in the future, software engineers believe that it does imply that many services are becoming intuitive enough to minimize person-to-person interaction.
Therefore, there is a lot riding on the employee who ends up needing to take a call. It is absolutely essential for them to possess the skills to correctly handle the customer’s needs and continue the customer’s relationship with the shop.
The “goal is always to get the customer in the door,” Leigh Anne Best says.
Best, marketing director at Mighty Auto Pro in Medina, Ohio, knows how to do these things. She has worked with customer service for 30-plus years, and the experience shows. Mighty Auto Pro has a 90 percent appointment rate, proving that her methods work. In her many years and numerous jobs, she has taken part in a large number of customer service training courses. At Mighty Auto Pro, she has developed new ways of how to best utilize her experience to benefit the auto repair industry, and offers her insight as to how shops all across the country can implement her approach.
1. Don’t use recordings.
Best’s first words of advice are against recordings. She insists on guaranteeing that a live person is the first thing the customer hears after calling. A frequent customer complaint is the over-reliance on recordings; they almost always want to talk with a human right away.
2. Emphasize the greeting.
“Talk at a good pace that’s understandable,” Best says.
This is obviously key for the success of the conversation in total, but it is doubly important for the employee’s greeting. Because these are the first words heard by the customer; they set the stage.
“We want them, just with the greeting, to know they called the right business and to know who they’re speaking to,” Best says.
3. Give the customer undivided attention.
The employee needs to be able to give his or her full attention to the customer. Often, if the employee is distracted, he or she doesn’t listen to the customer. The ability to be attentive and to be a good listener go hand in hand. The customer must be able to feel like they are “getting [the employee’s] full attention.”
4. Stay in control of the call.
Whether the employee is in control of the call or not stems from their attentiveness. In order to stay on top of the customer’s needs, the employee must be able to guide them to whatever service is required. Best recommends using open-ended questions to help subtly keep the customer on the same page as the employee.
5. Listen carefully and don’t rush.
Let the customer speak and don’t interrupt, she says. Another tip is to repeat what the customer’s concern appears to be, though one must be careful not to sound like they weren’t paying attention. It takes active effort to engage fully with what the customer is saying. It also takes deliberate thought to speak in an intelligible manner. Often, especially during busy periods, whoever answers the phone speaks at lightning speed.
According to Best, this makes the customer feel like the business he or she is calling doesn’t have time for him or her and leaves a negative impression. It is essential for the employee to be patient and not to rush. Almost all customer service-related issues are rooted in communication, or the lack thereof.
“Most people aren’t listening; they’re waiting for their turn to talk,” Best says.
6. Follow the script.
Many of the common issues found in phone-based interactions seem to have fairly intuitive solutions. However, it is often an intuition that must be, and can be, taught.
“You have to have a system and procedure in place for everything to be successful, in my opinion,” Best says.
In addition to teaching all of the aforementioned ideas, Mighty Auto Pro utilizes some phone scripting and training. This does not mean that each employee is reading the same lines every time a customer calls. They are instead shown a tree chart explaining what to say next, depending on the reason for which the customer is calling.
There are three common types of callers: someone who needs to make an appointment, someone with a question, or a price-shopper. These “paths” of conversation all end with the customer scheduling an appointment, if relevant.
7. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
The most common mistake made by newer employees also happens to be a top customer complaint, Best says. There is immediate pressure to know the answer to everything as a new hire, so they might guess an answer to a customer’s question and risk being wrong. Best insists that it is much better to put the customer on hold (though clearly not ideal) and get the correct answer. In a worst-case scenario, it might become necessary to transfer to a service advisor. Even that is better than accidentally misleading a potential customer, she says.