My computer screen was blue and would not do anything! I hate computer problems. I powered it down and back up, which is my “go to” solution for anything electronic. The same blue screen came up. My computer is important to me and I needed some professional help. A friend of mine mentioned a shop that does good work and I prefer to use local small businesses. They had a good online reputation so I decided to give them a call. The phone rang six times, long enough that I wondered if they were open. Someone picked up the phone and said, “Barneys computer repair, can I helpya?” The greeting was so fast that I was not sure what I just heard. I was sure I was interrupting because he sounded annoyed. As I began to explain my problem I heard him say to someone else, “No, no over there…sorry, what were you saying?”
One of the biggest opportunities to grow your business is mastering the art of phone skills. So much goes into making the phone ring. Your marketing efforts, social media, web presence, and your reputation all play a part in why potential customers call your shop. Whatever the reason is, they are considering your shop. If the call is handled correctly, it makes all subsequent interaction easier and more productive. Your goal is always to secure an appointment. If you secure just one additional appointment each day, your average repair order is $400, x 22 working days per month, x 12 months that equals an additional $105,600. That is real money. That does not factor in how many of those become regular customers and the referrals they will generate. This is something you can do right away. It does not cost anything extra and the potential payoff is amazing. This is the easiest, fastest way to make great improvement and growth in your business.
BEFORE THE CALL
Make a list of things that set your shop apart from the competition. If could be that you provide a great nationwide warranty, provide rental cars, you are an ASE Blue Seal shop, or even the type of vehicles your shop specializes in. Be ready to confirm their choice to call your shop. Remember that we are in the people business first. Your phone is ringing because the caller needs your help and this is your chance to build a new relationship, so smile when you answer the phone. You want the caller to feel welcome and to know that you are glad that they called your shop. Develop a policy that when the phone is answered, everyone else covers for that employee, so the phone call can go uninterrupted. Only employees that have been trained should answer the phone. Do not multi-task on the phone. You must completely dedicate yourself to focusing on the incoming call and nothing else. Do not become distracted or let your mind wander. Always have paper and pen in hand when answering the phone.
ANSWERING THE CALL
Clear your mind before answering the phone. Whatever else is going on, forget about it, and focus only on this phone call. Answer on the second ring. It gives the caller a few seconds to settle in so the caller does not feel like you pounced on the phone. Use a buffer phrase to begin, then the shop name, and finally your name. Something like, “Thanks for choosing Tiger’s Tires, this is Bob”. The buffer insures they hear the shop name if there is a glitch or pause when the call connects. You may have noticed there is no “Can I help you?” at the end of the greeting because it is unnecessary and it erases your name from their mind. Answer with a speed or cadence that is slow enough to understand. Be ready to write down what they say. Typically, the customer will give you a lot of information right at the beginning of the conversation, so be ready. Ask for their name and right it down. Use their name during the call. It builds trust and begins a relationship. Dale Carnegie said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
DURING THE CALL
As the call begins, the caller will typically have a lot of information. This requires focused, active listening. The more you empathize with the caller, the more information they will share. This is so important because you must identify and understand their problem completely if you are going to solve it to their satisfaction. You must learn to listen without trying to interject your point of view. The way to achieve all of this is to ask open ended questions. Do not ask questions that can be answered with yes or no. For example, “When do you hear that grinding noise?” or “When did it start doing that?” The reason you ask open ended questions is to discover what is important to them. Maybe they need their car fixed by tomorrow for a planned vacation. It could be their only car, so a rental car could be what they need. Sometimes the problem is the car has already been to another shop and it is still not fixed. The customer may also begin to circle back around to one singular question, “How much will it cost?” The best answer would be something like this, “Well Mary, based on what you have told me, it could be several different things. I know you want an accurate price on what it will cost to fix what is actually wrong. I suggest we set up an appointment to bring the car in so we can properly inspect it and give you a complete estimate.” At this point the customer may continue with the price objection. They may say something like, “I’m just looking for a price right now.” You reply with, “Ok, I can appreciate that Mary, but we need do a complete evaluation and then give you the estimate.” Then explain what goes into an evaluation and what the charge is for it, if there is a charge. Tell them that when it’s all said and done, they will know exactly what is wrong with their car and what it will cost to fix it.
Always use customer friendly terms. Some service advisors believe they can build credibility with techno-jargon and in depth vehicle system explanations. This is not the case. The customer will begin to dislike you when you do this. Zig Ziglar said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them”. After all, we fix cars but we are in the business of helping people with their problems.
CLOSING THE CALL
The primary goal for handling an incoming call is to secure the appointment. If you do not get it, you have nothing. You have clarified the problem, demonstrated concern, built rapport, and have been helpful and friendly. Ask the closing question, “Mary, based on the information you shared with me, I would recommend you bring the car in for an evaluation. I have a couple of openings available today. Which is better for you, the morning or afternoon?” After asking for the appointment, shut up! Wait for their answer. If you did a good job, you should get the appointment. Next confirm your shops location, time of the appointment, and the customer’s phone number. Tell them to ask for you and let them know that you look forward to meeting them. Take every phone call and treat it as an opportunity to get a new customer you can develop into a lifelong client.