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Car-care success is just a phone call away

October 11, 2010
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Bud Abraham, president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Centers in Portland, OR, said that he once had a lady tell him that she drove all the way across town, past many other detail shops, to visit his facility because the young man who answered the phone was just “so polite.”

Can you imagine being able to entice customers to drive five or 10 miles out of their way to patronize your business just by spending an extra 10 minutes training your staff on how to properly deal with customer calls?

Car-care facilities have the opportunity, through as little as 10 words uttered into a phone receiver, to leave a good and lasting impression on a potential customer that will literally drive them to your business.

I just called to say…

It is best to have a system set up that employees can follow when fielding phone calls from current and potential customers.

This can be instituted as part of a regular training program at your car-care facility or you can hire a designated person to cover the phones, cash register and the like. Whichever way you choose to handle the telephone greeting, make sure you have a plan.

The protocol should include:

1. A set way to greet the customer

When a customer calls your car-care facility you should have a set way for the greeter to answer the phone that is short, sweet and to the point. It should immediately identify both the business, the speaker and ask the caller to identify their needs.

Abraham takes it one step further and suggests thanking the customer at the start of the call.

“Thank you for calling XYZ, this is John speaking, how may I help you?” covers many bases in Abraham’s eyes. It thanks the customer for even thinking of your business, it identifies the business and the speaker and asks what the call is in regards to.

According to Abraham, the number of customers who call a business before actually visiting the location is staggering and much more than a car-care facility owner would think.

A good way to figure out what the customer is listening to is to call the shop when you are not there and listen for yourself, Abraham even suggests using a tape recorder so that you can play the greeting back to the person on the phone and address any problems that you may have had.

2. Knowing when to answer

A caller who has to wait incessantly while the phone rings four or five times before they reach a live voice will be annoyed and flustered when the phone is finally answered, whereas a caller who gets a voice on the other end after only half a ring will be startled.

To meet in the middle, it is widely agreed upon that a ringing phone should be answered after no less than two rings and no more than three.

Abraham suggests letting the phone ring a couple of times but doesn’t see the need to place too many restrictions as to when car-care facility should answer a call.

3. Talking slow

Car-care professionals are in the business of being quick. Turnaround time and throughput are what add to the bottom line and carwash owners and operators have adjusted their lives accordingly. But these owners should never be quick on the phone.

If answering the phone is part of one employee’s responsibilities then he or she won’t be as flustered or rushed when the phone rings. They’ll speak slowly, clearly and answer all questions.

In addition to talking slowly, make sure that you address the caller by name. Ask their name in the beginning of the conversation and then make sure you refer to them by it throughout the conversation.

This will show them that you have not only taken an interest in them, but that you listened to them as well.

4. “Can you hold, please?”

Always ask the customer before you put them on hold.

This, according to Abraham, is just basic people skills. He also emphatically suggests making sure that you return to the caller within 30 seconds of putting them on hold.

Another good tip provided by this detailing guru is to have music playing while the customer is on hold, it will make the wait time seem shorter and less tedious if they can hum along to a favorite tune.

People are impatient and your business is not the only car-care facility in the area, so if you don’t take the customer off hold you will lose that customer and create a bad impression for your business.

If the person the caller requested is taking a few extra seconds, Abraham recommends picking up the phone and alerting the caller to the extra wait and asking if they wouldn’t mind waiting a few more seconds or suggest a call back.

5. Taking a message

If the caller wants to speak to someone specific who is not currently at the location or is indisposed, make sure your staff follows a certain protocol for taking messages and sticks to it.

Make sure that your employee records the caller’s:

  • Full name;
  • Phone number;
  • Reason for call (also note the urgency in the matter at hand); and
  • Date and time of call.

After all of this is recorded make sure that the message is put in a designated place where the recipient is sure to find it easily and return the call promptly.

6. Hanging up

Before you get off the phone you should double check with the caller to make sure that you haven’t left any question unanswered. A simple “anything else?” will cover that ground.

If the customer is satisfied then the job is almost done and you simply have to end with a jovial “have a good day,” or “it was nice speaking with you.”

Sometimes when you are busy at the front desk you will be tempted to say “o.k.” and hang up, this could discourage the caller from ever calling your establishment again and, subsequently, ever visiting your car-care facility.

When it is time to end the call it is suggested that you wait until you hear the customer hang up first in order to show them that they were not an inconvenience to you and that you were not in a hurry to get off the phone.