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Bill Wittenmyer

Bill Wittenmyer VP Sales, Layered Apps & Competitive Accounts

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Are Your Phones Losing You Revenue?

When you call a business to seek assistance or information, what irritates you the most: the seemingly impossible chore of navigating phone trees to get to a live person; the options that are irrelevant to you; or the fact that, when you do get somebody, they’re the wrong person and have to transfer you?

 

Probably all of them! Well, the same is true for your customers. What do they experience when calling into your dealership? Do you even know?

 

Sadly, many dealers place far too much faith in their phone processes, people and technology. Just because your dealership has call monitoring doesn’t mean your customers are well cared for. In fact, those calls may not even be listened to -- except, perhaps, at the end of the month when a manager is scrambling for those few extra units to close the month.

 

Like any technology, just because you pay for it doesn’t mean it’s getting used. The fact is, if you’re not using it, you’d be better off with no automated phone system and a simple receptionist. Why? Because then your customers could at least talk to a live person.

 

What do you think customers do when they get irritated because they can’t talk to someone at your dealership? They hang up and call your competitor! Here’s a true story for you. Not too long ago I called into a BMW dealership in an attempt to speak to the General Manager. After countless automated transfers and a phone tree which asked me to press “1” for service etc., it took me 1 minute and 32 seconds to finally speak to a live person. And, perhaps even worse, guess what WAS NOT an option? SALES! Seriously. You would think that sales would have made the cut when configuring that phone system. Even accounting was an option!

 

Make it a point to inspect what you expect. I’m guessing that every dealer out there expects their phones to be answered. They also probably expect that a customer can easily navigate to the desired department and be appropriately handled once they reach a live person.

 

Well, the point is, you won’t know how horrible (or wonderful) your customer experience is via your phone system until you start doing one thing regularly:

 

Mystery shop your own store.

 

Place yourself in your customer’s shoes and regularly call into the dealership attempting to get different departments – and see what happens. To do this effectively, you (or a manager) should be away from the store and call in with a phone other than your cell, in order to stay truly anonymous. Employees will naturally try to answer quickly if they see that it’s you calling.

 

Pay attention to how many times you’re transferred; how many options you are forced to choose to get to whomever you wish to reach; and how long it takes you to speak to a live person. If it takes any longer than 30 seconds, there’s something wrong. If you get irritated, so do your customers. And that means you’re probably losing opportunities in sales and service. You can’t afford to miss any revenue or give it up to your competition.

 

Make sure any technology you adopt enhances the customer experience while also making your dealership more efficient. Efficiency gets thrown out the window if you’re losing customers.

 

There are many ways you can use technology or third party BDCs to provide your customers with a better experience. But don’t use any technology at the expense of your customer experience.

 

Start mystery shopping your dealership and ensure you and your management team regularly listen to calls to monitor what’s happening when customers call in. Identifying any points of customer friction, sooner rather than later, will decrease missed opportunities and, because of that, you can capture more business and revenue.

Pierre Legault

Great article Bill. Automated phone system can definitely be a nightmare for the customers. I also recommend that if you have a long list of options, try to keep only one level, and please, do start with Service, then Sales, then Parts, and leave the address and hours of operations last. But deftly, the customer should be able to talk to a live person right after the first selection.

Jeanne Landau

Great article and certainly all worthy points to keep in mind for any business, BtoC or BtoB, who deals with customers - which is every business!

The scenarios highlighted here scream for the case to use a speech analytics solution to automatically monitor calls for certain key phrases. With an automated solution scanning calls, dealerships can start to better understand the patterns and trends of conversations taking place between employees who are answering the phones, specifically sales people, and their customers. The insights gained will help dealers address process changes, training and coaching programs, and customer experience initiatives, all in effort to improve the CX and increase sales and revenue.

William Phillips

Processes are only as ineffective as the accountability format that accompanies them.  Technology will not fix the issues and neither will having an outside company do it for you. Many dealers know the problems but have no accountability format to effect change. That accountability shows up in meeting formats and pay plans that are based on real data.   Great article.  

Jeanne Landau

No, technology will not FIX the problems, you're right William.  It will however present the problems with statistical proof. Then it is up to the General Managers to address the problems that customers are experiencing when they call into the dealership. It's in their best interest if they want to keep existing customers and bring in new ones.

William Phillips

The statical proof has been in existence since "whos calling" started over 15 plus years ago.  Providing more statical proof will not accelerate the solving of the real problem.   Selling in person or over the phone is not a trainable skill, you either have it or your don't.  You can improve on your skill set and get better at something you know how to do, or power through something you cant actually do by scripts and a process .  Second one produces only a medium or low level of performance.  We have all been on the other end of these human robocalls that are powering through scripts looking for the lay downs and not really listening.    Change the hiring process to screen for real skill sets that can be focused and honed.  Develop pay plans and accountability formats that reward phone performance. Move people out who don't belong representing your store.  Putting people in jobs they dont belong in is the real root of any issue in the car business.  Often starts at the GM level down, where the forgotten art of accountability in this PC focused country is a contributor.   

 

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