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Five Techniques for Fixing Dealership Phones

Five Techniques for Fixing Dealership Phones
November 1, 2022

Despite the buzz about customers shopping on the Internet, the majority still pick up the phone when they’re ready to view a vehicle or schedule a service.

According to LSA Insights, up to 61% of vehicle shoppers call a dealership after a vehicle search. These are low-funnel shoppers ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. Yet, the average dealership has a 20% call-failure rate. That’s a crazy number of leads lost.

Are your phones letting you down? Here’s how to find out and fix it.

Assess Connectivity. You can’t solve a problem if you aren’t aware of it. First, assess your call connectivity.  It’s not simply knowing that you’re missing calls, it’s why you’re missing calls. Are callers stuck in your phone tree, forever pressing 1 for sales and getting dead air? Are they getting a voicemail box that’s full? Are they sitting on a ringing line only to be routed again to your receptionist? Call your store and see what happens. Ask family or friends to call, too, and note their experiences.

Automate Phone Processes. Your research likely uncovered problems with your phones. Now what? Leverage technology to automate processes and give your managers real-time insights so you have 100% call accountability. When you track every call, whether answered or abandoned, you can save every opportunity.

Imagine a customer calls, the phone rings 15 times, the customer gets frustrated and hangs up. Now imagine your sales manager immediately receives an email or text with that customer’s phone number and a note that the call was not answered. The manager picks up the phone and immediately calls back. What an incredible customer experience! You get bonus points for calling back, which sets the stage for a pleasant conversation and dramatically increases the odds the customer will make an appointment and buy a vehicle.

Score calls. You’ve sorted out why you’re missing calls. Case closed, right? Not so fast. Now you need to assess what’s happening on those calls. Picking up the phone is a great first step, but that alone won’t result in a sale or a service appointment. Recording and scoring calls is key to training staff and winning more business. Listen for a professional greeting, if every customer question is answered, if customer details are asked for and entered into the CRM. Managers should be able to see in real time the number of calls and who handled them.  A sales or service manager can then follow up on calls that did not result in an appointment and help motivate the customer to the next step in the process.

Conduct ongoing training. Phone handling skills require ongoing training. With a real-time phone application, managers can work one-on-one with employees as the calls are coming in. Yes, your managers are busy. That’s why it makes sense to deal with calls as they’re coming in instead of pulling everyone into a 30-minute meeting on Saturday morning. If you only talk about phone skills once or twice a month your people will never evolve. Your managers need to consistently reinforce habits and validate people who are doing well.

We love to throw money at people in our industry, but I don’t think putting a spiff out there is necessary. We as people, especially younger employees, want validation of a job well done. Sometimes all employees need is to be recognized in front of their team – that is very impactful.

Get help when you need it. You’ve assessed your phones, have call tracking and recording software, yet you’re still missing calls. It’s time to get help. An automotive-focused outsourced business development corporation (BDC) is a great option to ensure calls are answered. Agents will act as if they’re your employees, they will answer calls according to your specifications and they will nurture leads until it’s time to flip them to a sales associate.

Most BDCs have the ability to scale up or down according to your marketing campaign schedule.

If abandoned calls are a problem for your service department, a digital voice assistant (DVA) is a great solution to handle inbound calls. Today’s DVAs sound like a real person, are integrated with your online scheduling tool and DMS, and have the ability to schedule appointments and answer basic questions such as service hours and shop location. Some can even access a returning customer’s service record to recommend required maintenance or notify about outstanding recalls.

Phone calls are your best low-funnel sales and service leads. If your phones are letting you down, implement call tracking and recording software, ongoing phone training and outside help when you need it. That’s your best bet to ensure every customer call is handled promptly and professionally.

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Jason Beckett is the President of Proactive Dealer Solutions, a leading provider of training and software solutions for the automotive industry. With a background in product development at Blackberry and infotainments systems and a Master of Business Administration, Jason joined Proactive Dealer Solutions in 2014, bringing his expertise in strategic planning, product development, and project management.