Making it difficult for callers to reach a human does more harm than any other issue that comes up with a dealership. This frustration will lead to more callers hanging up or simply giving up.
Customers don't want to be forced to navigate voice-mail labyrinths.
Automated systems must be simple to understand and used sparingly.
Many dealerships invest in an automated telephone service believing it will expedite call handling and route the caller to the right department quickly and seamlessly (“For sales, press 2.”).
Dealerships believe they cut expenses by eliminating the need for an operator. Yet if a caller gets lost in the system, he or she often gets transferred to a general mailbox, hangs up in frustration or, worse, gets disconnected. Instead of creating a customer-friendly environment, the dealership gets a massive problem.
The Human Touch
During business hours, unplug the automated answering system. Answer phones the old-fashioned way.
Companies whose phones are manned by an employee consistently receive higher marks in consumer surveys.
Every call should be answered by a telephone greeter or by the individual being called. If the individual is unavailable, the phone should be routed to the telephone greeter until they are accessible.
Once a call is answered, the telephone greeter should quickly identify the business and determine the caller's need.
If the caller is trying to reach a specific individual or department, transfer the call to the extension or page to get a live response.
If the caller isn't sure, find out the reason for the call, identify the right person or department, tell the caller and transfer the call.
If the person being called is unavailable, the greeter should give the caller options: take a message, transfer to voice mail or locate someone who can help.
The receptionist should never screen the call by putting a customer through an interrogation.
When someone asks for a salesperson or a manager they should get one ' immediately and without qualification.
Making Automated Systems Work
It is possible to create automated telephone systems that satisfy callers when a person isn't available, when a line is busy or when it's after hours.
In these cases, automated systems allow callers to go directly to the individual they are trying to reach using direct dial or an extension. Remember, the telephone is a sales tool.
The following are essential:
Avoid unnecessary details: The system should start with a simple greeting that identifies the organization. Instructions should be clear.
Give options: If callers reach an individual's voice mail during business hours, they should always be given the option of dialing “0” or saying “operator” to reach a human being.
Keep in touch: Call-forward each salesperson's office telephone to their pager or cell phone so calls aren't missed. Put every phone number on the salesperson's business card: main number for the dealership and the sales person's direct line, cell, home and pager numbers.
Allow for mistakes: No call should ever be disconnected or sent to a general mailbox due to caller errors (i.e. no key presses, invalid key selections).
Make messages matter: Callers should have the option to leave a message and request a call-back at a specific time. Messages left during business hours should be returned within 30 minutes. Messages left after hours should be the first priority the next business day. If a caller requests a call back at a specific time, honor the request.
Well-honed, personal telephone etiquette will ensure a customer's first contact with the dealership is not the last.
Richard F. Libin of Automotive Profit Builders Inc. works with dealerships on satisfaction and sales. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.
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