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From: Jared Hamilton
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Bill Wittenmyer

Bill Wittenmyer Partner

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The Often Forgotten but Most Important Person in Your Dealership

Who is the most important person in your dealership? Every time I ask this question I get different answers ranging from the dealer, to various members of management, or even that top salesperson tearing up the sales board, but very rarely – if ever – do I get the right answer.

Why? Because most don’t even think about this employee who is typically the lowest paid, perhaps youngest, and, to top it off, is quite often a part-time employee.

So, who is it? It’s your receptionist! Wait – what?? Why am I telling you that your receptionist is the most important person in your dealership?

Your receptionist is the first point of contact for many of your customers. In fact, your receptionist touches more customers than your entire dealership staff COMBINED on a day-to-day basis. Their attitude and how they handle those customers can easily influence whether customers choose your dealership to buy their vehicle, or your competition.

The receptionist can be welcoming or can irritate people and cause them to go elsewhere. Far too often their duties are carried out in a mechanical manner no different from a switchboard operator – “How may I direct your call?” -- transfer and on to the next call. Sadly, what happens with the customer after they first pick up the call matters little to many receptionists-- for the simple reason that they have already moved on to the next caller. They are just not INVESTED IN THE OUTCOME OF THE CALL!

Think about it. Have you ever called a dealership trying to reach someone only to have the receptionist transfer the call, have no one pick up, and the phone keeps ringing back to the receptionist, who just keeps transferring it back to the line that keeps ringing – never to be answered? The customer gets lost in the abyss of phone transfer hell.

The dealership most likely ends up with an irritated (and perhaps ex) customer -- or loses a sale. All because the receptionist does not make a real effort to get someone to assist the customer. All that money your dealership spent to get that customer to call in the first place, or to get their service business. You might as well have just burned it.

Here’s a freebie: Consider adding bonuses to the receptionist’s sales plan based on unit and repair order volume. All of a sudden, the receptionist is invested in the outcome of the call because any failure to ensure that customer is helped hurts his or her personal paycheck. Per NADA, dealers spend upwards of $640 to acquire a new customer… Is a $5 spiff per unit sold or completed RO really going to affect that? No! In fact, that $5 may actually save you a sale or service RO.

Take care of your receptionist and ensure that they understand the importance of taking control of every call and that every customer receives assistance. If that means the receptionist needs to page people, call their cell phones or hit a darn gong to get someone, so be it. In the end, you’ll know that your customers are being taken care of and that you’re not losing business – sales or service – simply because the customer could not get through to someone on the phone.

Pierre Legault

What a great article Bill. I get the same reaction every time I ask a dealer to take real good care of a particular receptionist. I would go even further in saying your receptionist has invaluable knowledge about your dealership. She gets the pulse of the Sales Floor, sees everything, hear everything. As weird as it may sound, involve her (or he) in Managers meetings once in a while and exploit that knowledge. Every successful dealer I know have class A Receptionist, and they deserve more than what they are getting in most of them.

Tori Zinger

Wow -- great point, Bill. We definitely need to make sure that the receptionists are taken care of. I always say that you can tell when you go to a place of business whether they employees love or hate their job -- just look at the way they interact with customers! 

Scott Larrabee

Excellent point, Bill... I'm going to be sharing this with the team here for sure!

mark rask

this is so true....they field more calls than anyone

Bill Wittenmyer

Couldn't agree more, Pierre. Including receptionists in meetings is an excellent idea. Thanks for sharing. 

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