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5 Keys to Better CSR Interactions

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Customer Service Lessons from Outside Experts

There are many arguments that could be made about the most important roles in the shop. But one of the few that cannot be argued is that of the customer service representative (CSR)—the person most frequently interacting with your customers. From the very first phone call to any follow-ups, a consistent experience needs to be top-of-mind for all CSRs, says Chloe Brewer, CSR at Classic Collision in Alaska, formerly known as Able Body Shop (owned by Ryan Cropper). 

“I really think all customer touchpoints have important qualities, because even though they say the first impression is the most important—and it is—then you have to keep up with that,” she says. “So when you set that standard of, ‘Hi, how are you?; and smiling and happy, it can easily be ruined by not keeping that up. You need to build trust throughout the entire time of the repair—and that's really how you can capture those customers to keep them coming back. “

Cropper’s CSR teams have always been fairly legendary in the industry, and his business development center (BDC) call center has played an even bigger role since the Classic acquisition. That’s where Brewer and her colleagues come into play. Below, Brewer offers her playbook for the five most important elements of any customer conversation.

As told to Anna Zeck


Be in charge of the conversation.

When I am training, my biggest tip is always being direct in the conversation. Don't let the customer run the conversation. You need to have a few things in your brain that you need to get from them. And if you don’t, they will start telling you about a moose that they found in their yard or helping their grandma do something. The goal of the customer service rep is to answer all of the phone calls coming in as much as you can, getting things done, making sure you are off the phone quickly so that you can take care of customers who are walking in right away. 

So you really want to direct those phone calls. That can be done by ending everything in a question so that they have to answer it in a certain way and then you move on.  

The biggest thing is having compassion and being 100 percent honest, because there are lots of times where they're upset—of course—and you just have to have empathy for them. Try to get across that we can get them in the fastest and that we're not going to lie to them at all, because that's a really big deal where people feel that they have to be on guard or that they're going to get swindled. 


Sell your shop’s best qualities.

We want to make sure that we introduced ourselves, that we let the customers know that we are competent in everything that we're doing, that they can trust us and that we're definitely the best person to talk to. My main goal is to get them to come in for that estimate appointment, as quickly as we can, where our estimators can really sell it and let them know that we are absolutely the best people to help them. It’s about making people feel comfortable and getting that appointment date, and then sending them the reminder and just making sure all that information is correct.

Mentioning our OEM certifications is another thing that we try to do to sell ourselves. We have a lot of customers call into our shop and shop around for estimates and we'll ask them their vehicle make and say, “Oh, that's so wonderful. We're actually a certified shop for high-end XYZ. We have all the proper tools and the certifications, uh you're at the right place.” Usually they think that’s great and it works out really well.


Know your stuff. 

A basic thing ever a customer service rep should know is how to read the estimate. I know quite a bit just because of other tasks and things that I have helped with. Google, honestly, is my best friend when I don't know what a part is. If I have to explain something, I always try to put in that effort to at least try to learn it and always understand what you're calling the customer about. If you can't go into at least a little bit more in depth, if they do have a question, that’s going to annoy the questions. You need to have some of those answers and if you don't, you've got to get them. 

At our largest location, the CSRs split our work between insurance companies. Sometimes we'll have 80 active jobs and that is a lot for one person to remember. Then we only have to deal with a certain number of customers and we can actually give them the time and the care and the effort that we need to make them feel special and that they're not forgotten about in their vehicles, just sitting in the back lot.


But also know when to call in backup.

The customer service rep is the main person who does communicate with the customer, but of course, at some point, if there is a difficult job or something that needs to go more in depth, we will have our blueprinter or a production manager give the customer a phone call and introduce themselves and explain what's going on just to instill that confidence between the relationship. Because if I were to call and I'm like, “well, um, well, uh, you know,” stuttering over my words, it would not make us look very good.


Find a system that works for you.

Something that I am really big on is I have to have a clean workspace. There's a certain place for every paper. I make a checklist every morning and I write down my tasks that I have to get completed; things like check-in vehicles, check out vehicles, call to go home, confirm payments, um, update customers, things like that. I also jot down notes or people to call back and focus on one thing at a time. That is how you make mistakes; when you have so many AROs open and you’re trying to do too many things at once. So focus on one thing at a time. Don't have too many AROs open. Keep your workspace clean so that you can stay organized, and clean your desk off often.


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