Broski: 4 Prospective (New) Customer Call-In Tips

March 16, 2023
In his March column, Victor Broski offers service advisors four tips for turning cold callers into customers.

You spend a certain amount of money on marketing and advertising. You want those eventual phone calls to convert to customers.  

 You never know when one of those calls will come in, but that’s what keeps the shop going, getting new customers because of normal attrition. I also think that is where the service advisor “earns their keep.” This is where you get to apply all of your interpersonal skills. 

Those calls seldom come when you are fresh and not beaten up by the week. But there are some tools to make those calls more productive and turn those inquiring people into customers. 

Answer the Phone Purposefully

First, let’s lay a little groundwork. When the phone rings or is passed along to you, clear your mind of anything negative. Become the happiest person on earth. It’s easy to be happy for 15 seconds, but you have be happy for the whole call. But, it’s OK to occasionally say: “I’m lying. It’s a tough day.” Before you answer, grab a notepad and pen in case the caller quickly says their name or the make, model and year of their car. Be careful with a long, salesy phone answer script. Too often they are read so fast they aren’t understood. 

Flow, Don't Script

Be careful with phone scripts. How could it be the same for a woman, a man, a car guy, an old guy, someone new from out of state, etc. The good advisors, the experienced ones, can go with the flow of the conversation. If the office answers your phone, they shouldn’t decide the caller to be a “price shopper” when they pass along the call. These callers seldom know how to ask about becoming a customer. There’s the common but dreaded, “How much do you charge to … ” Don’t get irritated; that doesn’t necessarily make them a price shopper. It’s their way of comparing shops. Then there’s the, “Do you guys work on (make of car)?”  One of the treasured ones is, “I was referred to you guys by _____ .” Then there’s the awkward, “Can I talk to “(the boss or owner)?"  If you say no, there’s usually a long pause.  “Well … I was referred by _____ and was told to ask for him (or her).” And the one we wish they would say:  “I’m new to the area and looking for a shop I can build a relationship with.” 

Be accommodating, they’re not all price shoppers. And what’s wrong with that? They’re probably eliminating the expensive shops and hopefully the cheap ones. 

Make a Connection

Make sure to ask: “How did you hear about us?” This help to know which marketing is working or if it's word of mouth. Are they a referral? That’s the fun one; they are three-quarters sold. If referred by a (good) customer, say: “Oh, you’re connected now!” They always smile or chuckle. An online search?  They probably checked your website and reviews. If so, I’d guess they’re half sold, so don’t oversell yourself or your shop. 

If you don’t know yet, ask if they are new to the area and where they’re from. Another approach is to say, “I don’t recognize that area code. Where is that?” See if you can come up with a comment about their city or state. 

If the caller is new to the area, ask questions if you feel comfortable with them. “Did your job bring you here?” Maybe it was to be closer to relatives. “Do you have a family?” “What are your kids into?” Again, come up with a response, if you can. Find something you have in common with them! Everything changes after that; there’s a small bond started. I once went through all that and the person said, “When can I bring my car in?” I didn’t sell the shop at all! 

Your job is to build a personal relationship. Sell them on you!  You’re the face of the shop. Technically I guess you are the voice of the shop. Consider: you may not need to pitch your shop; it’s presumed you have trained techs, the latest tools, a clean shop, etc. Again, sell them on you.   

Be considerate and helpful to those callers. They are probably in a predicament with a broken car. They don’t need you grilling them on whether the leak or issue is actually the water pump or something else. They are comparing quotes and feeling out the shops, determining which one they connect best with. I once got a 5-star review for simply helping someone on the phone. 

Quote The Price, It Won't Hurt You

Prevailing advice says not to quote prices. I disagree. I think that’s the prevailing advice because it’s always been the prevailing advice. No one has had the guts to go against the grain. Quote the water pump. If it turns out to not be the water pump, how can they hold you to the quote? Remember, they asked for the water pump quote. Oh, you did build up a relationship, correct? 

I suppose there could be a hitch if you’re dealing with discount shoppers looking for the lowest price at the cheapest shop. 

Side note: If you quote list on parts and labor, you may not get the job unless you dazzle them with your charm and expertise. Knock off 10%, 15% or $50, whichever is less. But don’t tell them you are giving them a discount otherwise you are setting yourself up for future discounts. Marketing (acquiring?) a new customer is expensive, so $50 is cheap. Or, “I want to help you go to the best shop in town, so I’ll knock off $50 to sweeten the deal.” 

My aim was to share some observations from a communications point of view. I’ve been doing them for years and it’s actually fun because of the interaction and the high success rate. I hope it’s as fun and successful for you as well.  

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