Anatomy of an Effective Phone Answering Process

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It’s no secret that the world has become increasingly more digital, Mike Markette says. But believe it or not, that doesn’t mean a live phone call is any less important. In fact, Markette argues it’s even more important than ever:

“In today’s day and age, when the customer experience is so great on the web and growing because of bots and artificial intelligence,” he says. “In fact, by 2020, Bing predicts 85 percent of customer interactions will with be non humans. That 15 percent that call, your expectation is high, your needs are high.”

That’s why every fixed operations department needs an effective phone answering process that exceeds the customer’s needs and expectations. As the president of CallRevu, Markette works with more than 1,800 dealerships to improve and track their phone answering process.


Before the Call

The phone experience starts before the phone is dialed, Markette says. It’s vital that your phone number is prominently displayed on your website, and that it has an icon allowing customers to make appointments online, even with a mobile device.


Proper Phone Answering Process

  1. Customer Calls
    1. Phone Tree: If the majority of your phone calls are currently cold transfers, Markette recommends implementing a phone tree with four options or less, as this is the maximum most people can memorize.
    2. Voicemail: If the dealership is closed or the person the customer is trying to reach is unavailable, it’s crucial not to have a generic voicemail. Adding your phone number and letting the caller know they can be called or texted at this number increases the likelihood of the customer trying to reach you. One consideration is that you do lose control over the customer by letting employees utilize their mobile phones.
    3. Live answer.
      1. Pick up the phone quickly.  Don’t let the phone ring for long periods of time without answering. The phone call should be picked up in three rings or less, Markette says.

      2. Answer with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm trumps all, he says; it helps create connection and warmth, which customers are looking for. State your first and last name, which offers full transparency and builds trust. The beginning of the phone call needs to demonstrate your character, Markette says.

      3. Listen to what they’re saying. Markette says that if a person asks for an oil change appointment, they are likely a first-time customer, whereas if they ask for a specific person by name, they likely know the person and have worked with him for years and will not wait on hold. Listen to what the caller is saying and then decide whether you can help them personally or will need to transfer them.

        1. Answer their questions. If you’re able to help, do everything you can to answer their question. Forty percent of all call failures happen in the step of answering the question. Work your way toward earning the right to ask for the appointment by listening and answering questions. If you do so, 50 percent of customers will ask for the appointment.

        2. Transfer the call. Know that the person is available before you transfer the call. One way to do this is by installing a camera so the receptionist can see if the service advisor is available, and if not, set the proper expectation with the customer. If you can minimize hold times to 30 seconds or less, you will eliminate 75 percent of automotive hangups.


Maximizing Call Recording

Improving your phone answering process is all in the data, training and coaching, and call recording and tracking is one tool to help do this. Utilize a system to pull up your roster of service writers, see which ones offline the call the most, which ones introduce themselves, which ones get appointments. Then, you will be able to specifically pinpoint problem areas to work on. Markette says a best practice is to listen to a few recordings per month. If an average call is 3.5 minutes, that’s 10 minutes or listening plus coaching and discussion, which is realistically the most a dealer can comfortably handle.

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