Shop Life

Keys for Focusing on Phone Calls

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​Nowadays, in my shops, there’s no more chaos in the front office.

Late last year, we opened a call center, and dedicated customer service representatives to answering phone calls all day, in an upstairs office. … And the benefits we’ve had have been enormous.

It has really created a calming factor in our front offices, because now the phones aren’t going crazy; You don’t have one customer on the phone when you have another customer that walks in and wants face-to-face interaction.

We talked about doing this for a long time, and there were some logistics involved. But,

whether you have one location or 20, I really believe wholeheartedly in removing calls from the front office, where the customer interaction is. Knowing what I know now, even if I had one location, as long as my volume was enough that I could staff one person to just deal with the phone calls— away from the front desk—I would do that in a heartbeat.

Because, if you think about it, it’s kind of crazy to have calls come in to a front desk, where that’s our time to shine with a customer that walks through our door. Think about all the businesses you visit like grocery stores—could you imagine being a customer, interacting with a grocery store employee, and they stop talking with you to answer the phone? That’s not an ideal scenario. I believed we could do a much better job in the business by removing that type of scenario.

Our offices are so noticeably more calm now, because you can dedicate the time needed to the customer right in front of you, and to the customer on the phone. Because, when you’re juggling both all the time, then you’re probably  short-changing both customers.

My initial vision of a call center was like what you would see at a large insurance company,

where you have all these cubicles, and people answering phones all day. But, in reality, it’s completely the opposite. I went and toured one friend’s call center setup in Texas, and he simply had three people answering the phones, with one person doing online estimates. It was a tiny little office, but he told me it would blow my mind what a difference that makes, by removing most of the phone calls from my front office. And he was right.

With ours now, we use an upstairs office and we just moved all the phone calls into that room. It’s a 10-foot-by-20-foot room, with three desks—two that are for the call center, and one for estimatics. Anyone that calls our main business number, that’s where the call goes. Our parts department will occasionally still get a call from a vendor at their desk but, for the most part, any customer communication for our shops now goes through our main phone number; each facility still has their own phone number, but it all comes into one room.

We use seasoned CSRs that know what they’re doing; all of them have been with us for over a year. Our CSRs do one week in the call center, and rotate, so no one is stuck in the call center long term. We didn’t have to add any staff, we were just able to move the employees that we have.

So, it was seamless and easy.

We have weekly meetings to get feedback from employees about the call center. And, what we’ve really stressed to our employees lately is to spend more time interacting with customers. Because, as you know, if you’re sitting on the phone and someone’s standing in front of you, you’re going to rush that situation, and vice versa, normally.

Nowadays, our employees are able to give customers more attention than they ever have before. And a lot of that just came naturally—by not being rushed by something going on around them.

In a short amount of time we saw our CSI score jump up, to 98 percent, after implementing the call center. The benefits have been huge. ​

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