Answering the Call

April 18, 2024
Nearly four decades of monitoring phone calls has taught Todd Hayes how to give customers what they need.

“Man, I’ve got to tell you the truth. I’ve only got one tech in today, and you do not want him working on your brakes.” 

Todd Hayes heard this while mystery shopping at auto repair shops gathering research to help his shop and others in the industry improve phone etiquette.  

Scary isn’t it?  

Hayes, the COO of the eight-unit $43 million per year Texas-based Adams Automotive, has heard it all–the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s an expert on phone skills and wants to share his knowledge because he understands just how important that first call is.  

“How you represent your company over the phone determines whether or not they’ll buy from you,” Hayes says.  



Hayes met owner Perry Adams in the ‘90s while running Mobile Car Care. Once Hayes sold his auto repair chain, he joined Adams at Adams Automotive. Since joining the company, Hayes founded his own training company called Autoshop Answers. 



Hayes has been calling other shops to get intel on phone etiquette since 1986, and it’s always been an issue. He says most shops he calls are quick to say, no, meaning they’re unwilling to accommodate a customer's needs. For example, if a customer calls a shop looking to bring their car in at 4:45 p.m. and the shop closes at 5 p.m., the advisor will say no. Or, if they’re looking for help identifying an issue with their vehicle, the service advisor provides a technical description that's impossible for a layperson to understand. Basically, the initial phone call to the typical repair shop is extremely frustrating for customers.  



Hayes’ solution to this problem is simple. Just say, yes.  

Ninety-five percent of the time, when a customer calls, they want to know one of two things: “What is it?” and “How much?” Hayes’ philosophy is that the best way to handle those questions is to get the customer to bring the car to the shop so you can help them more. Do they want to bring the car in? Let them! 

“A customer will call and say, ‘I’m seeing something leaking from my vehicle.’ The advisor will say ‘What color is it? Why?’” Hayes says. 

If something is leaking, no matter what the color, the car needs to be looked at, he explains.  

Hayes adds that if a customer cannot bring the car in, they offer pickup and drop-off services.  

At Adams Automotive, there’s a two-and-a-half-day onboarding program, which includes phone training. Autoshop Answers has a phone skills script that can easily be implemented at any shop. Every inbound and outbound phone call is recorded and during Adams Automotive’s morning meeting, called a “Take Five,” random phone calls are listened to, and the team reviews them and provides feedback. 



Hayes says that Adams Automotive has a staggering 95% close ratio. 

“Our industry operates with decision fatigue instead of realizing every part of our business is very predictable,” Hayes says. “They’ll call and ask what it is and how much. Know how to answer that!” 



Hayes urges shop owners to start listening to phone calls. 

“Listen to them. It will shock you how bad it is,” he says.  

The industry, he says, is groomed to say no. People need to understand that it’s about the customer since they pay for everything and learn how to present this over the phone.  

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