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From: Jared Hamilton
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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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The Follow Up Email

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Maintain Service Excellence in the Recovery

Undoubtedly, most of the population understands that businesses need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ during the COVID-10 recovery. Between plexiglass shields and social distancing stickers on the floor to increased distance between staff members, everything has changed physically. What hasn’t changed is the expectation of service excellence.

Every phone call, every in-person interaction, and every email should be handled with professionalism. It’s more than just being above reproach – the customer’s future business hangs on how your dealership treats them now more than ever before.

How NOT to ‘Help’

Recently, I placed a call to the parts department at a dealership to source a component that’s uncommon but not impossible to find. At every stage, the interaction went sideways.

The first call. When I tried calling for the first time, the dealership didn’t answer the parts line. Voice mail. I left a message.

I then tried two other dealerships with the exact sale result! Messages were left, then I waited. After three hours, no returned calls. I tried again. And again. And again. Finally, after the fifth call, a real live person picked up and asked me to hold. Happy to have a warm body on the other side, I held for seven full minutes.

During the brief discussion about which part I was looking for, there was a bit of static on the line. He said I was breaking up, then after no more than four seconds, he hung up. I was furious. After holding seven minutes, he gives up on the call after four seconds.

In a rage, I called back repeatedly – probably eight to ten times – until someone answered again. Same guy. I politely said, “Sorry, I guess the call got dropped,” while gritting my teeth. He remained oblivious.

I carried on with my explanation for the hard-to-find part. Again, “please hold.” Then, TEN MORE MINUTES ON HOLD LATER, he comes back and says it’s not possible.

I teed off. No need to describe. I found it online and purchased it in minutes.

How It Should Be Done

This is not about me at all. As someone familiar with the auto industry and some of the nuances, I believe I gave the dealer more latitude than a non-associated customer would. At the first point of difficulty, a customer has the ability to defect. I stuck with it.

Weigh in if you think I’m wrong, but I think these are the expectations a customer should reasonably have met.

  • A good chance of reaching a live person on the first call. It should be normal practice to pick up every call by the second ring in every department, even parts.
  • An efficient callback time. Three hours is too long. One of the voice mail messages actually said “within a business day”. That’s crazy. No one searching for parts is willing to wait 24 hours for a call back. Strive for 30 minutes and no more than an hour. Your customers are shopping elsewhere too.
  • More than four seconds to correct a reception issue. A long hold time followed by impatience about reception shows you don’t value their time at all.
  • No long holds. It doesn’t matter to the caller what’s happening on the other side. Best practices are much shorter, but always touch base within a minute or so of placing a caller on hold.
  • Actually try to help. It’s not always about making this small sale. A customer will come back for a larger order if they feel they will be served well.

 

Accept this anecdote as a sample of how not to handle a customer who calls into the dealership. This was a parts desk but it could’ve been any department. A frustrated caller could be a loyal customer that’s now going to try a different dealer instead. Provide an exceptional customer service experience every time, whether you’re short-staffed from a pandemic or not, and your customers will keep coming back.

 

Morgan Hardy

I've been seeing this a lot lately where calls are going unanswered and not responded to in a timely fashion. 

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