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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jim Bell

Jim Bell Performance Manager

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Fixed Ops and the Phone...Are YOU Making it Happen?


So many internet managers get so overwhelmed with sales end of the business, we forget about fixed operations. I think a lot of managers forget about that since it generally takes care of most of the expenses of the dealership and is a profit center and takes care of itself and we forget to put it under the microscope at times.  Fixed ops are the life and blood of the dealership and sometimes we have to be reminded of that.  How much business are we missing or turning away?

The phone is our first line of communication with the customer and IS our first impression with a call to service.  Yes, we have some walk in traffic like sales, but for the most part, people call in for a service appointment or to get a general question answered. We have to be sharp on the phone, if not; we may not ever see that customer in our service drive or even on the sales lot.  If we stumble through our answers to questions, we may look like we don't know what we are doing and we may never see that customer.

In my daily activities, I have always listened to phone calls to check on conversions from our website, but I never really listened all the way through on them.  I recently started doing this at the request of my General Manager. I started noticing short call times that were for service under and that were a concern. I got to thinking that it would have to be kind of hard to get all of the customer information and schedule the appointment under 2 minutes.  Then I really started listening to the calls.

So this will bring a question to the table. Are your Service Advisors clerks or salesmen?  In the last week, I have listened to a few calls where a customer would call in and ask what a diagnostic would be for a check engine light or how much a service was. We would give them the information and then the customer would say o.k., thanks and would hang up with the customer before even asking for an appointment or any customer information. Did those customers call back and make an appointment? I don't know, but it brought things to the surface where we have to change things on the service drive while taking phone calls.

I did decide to call a few dealerships for service and see for myself if other dealerships had the same issue in their service drive. My questions were the same and that I had a check engine light on and how much was the diagnostic cost?  I called 8 different dealerships, different makes, and of the 8 dealerships, I was asked for the appointment 3 times.  Not good.

A service call is no different than a sales call calling in on a specific vehicle. We have to engage with the customer and try to set the appointment.  Service advisors have to be on their toes.  So what can we do to make our service departments stand out?

1.  When a customer asks what a diagnostic cost is or what service is recommended and what the cost is, we have to give them the information they are looking for, but then put our selling shoes on and say "is there a time that you would like to get that scheduled?" instead of giving them the answer and ending the call.

2.  Keep the tone in your voice upbeat. I know there is a huge call volume to the service departments, but we have to try to stay excited on the phone. I have always said smile before you dial with sales guys, so smile before you pick up too.

3.  Don't be negative. If a customer wants to get in and there is no room for an appointment, offer solutions and keep the tone up.  Don't sound like Eeyore. Offer up letting the customer bring the car in and try to work it in if that is an option.

4.  Offer alternatives.  If for some reason you are booked with appointments, offer something like bringing it in and working it in and offer the shuttle to take them somewhere if need be.

If we stand out on the phones, just like sales, you will conquer the market in the service world.

Bryan Armstrong
Brother, you are preaching to the choir! I love this. One thing about the diagnostic is after you give the figure, I have trained my people in the past to explain that since that fee was deducted from any work completed the same day as the dignostic, which would be the best day to bring in the vehicle? Great and timely reminder.
Jon Quade
Excellent post, Jim! I couldn't agree with you more, especially the part about listening to calls - you'll never know what's really going on until you do.
Dave Page
Jim, here are some numbers of a study we did at Dealer e Process with about 100 of our own dealers - 57% of advisors do not ask the customer for a service appointment on the phone.(your numbers are worse!) 38% of operators keep customers on hold causing hangups (3.5 minutes or more). Service departments touch 6 to 10 times more people than sales on a daily basis! Wake up service directors, managers and advisors!
Jim Bell
Awesome stats Dave! I was wondering what it would be nationwide and this helps a little with 100 dealers vs. the few that I called.
R. J. James

Very helpful post!  Listening to incoming calls for both Sales and Service can be an eye opener.  If addressed properly, the discoveries on the Service side can be especially profitable.  Unfortunately, most dealerships never invest the time, energy, and resources to monitor Service calls.

What Jim shared should be a Call-To-Action for dealerships everywhere. 

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