Lip Service: First-Class Telephone Skills
By Margie Seyfer, AAM
Are your telephone skills ‘first class?’
How many thousands of dollars have you spent on equipment and tools to do the job right and to make your technicians more productive? It’s a staggering amount, isn’t it? One tool, your telephone, without a doubt is the most important. Without it, you would not even be in business. Most people think they do a pretty good job using their telephone. As a telephone skills trainer, I recommend you ask your staff for their answers to this little survey:
• Do your people answer the telephone with just your business name?
• Do your customers ever ask, “What business is this?”
• Do your people omit their name from their telephone greeting?
• Do customers ever ask, “Who is this?”
As an owner, you should already know the answers to these questions. If you answered “yes” to any of them, let me suggest a few simple techniques that will dramatically improve your telephone customer service.
If your telephone is answered with only your business name, you are missing an opportunity to establish an emotional connection. An emotional connection occurs when the customer has a wow moment. Customers notice how especially nice we are. For this to happen quickly, two important pieces of the telephone greeting need to be in place. These are “Thank you for calling” . . . and stating your name.
Why do we need to say “Thank you for calling?” Because this phrase acts as a cushion before we state our business name. It gives the caller’s brain an opportunity to “click in” before they hear the business name. Have you ever dialed a business and while its phone rang forgot who you called? Do you recall hoping you could recognize the business name when they answered but couldn’t and had to ask what business it was? What is wrong with this picture? Obviously, it was an unpleasant experience to appear dumb and it caused wasted time on the part of the person answering that phone to have to repeat the business name a second time.
There should be absolutely no question as to what business the customer has called or the name of the person answering the phone. The service adviser answering the phone is establishing an image or perception of your business that dictates, in a large way, whether this customer will set an appointment. The customer is picturing in his or her mind whether the person on the phone is to be trusted and/or is worthy of their business. It’s an opportunity to reel in the customer.
So, you ask, “What’s in a name?” We all recognize that human beings process information in very primitive terms. We don’t think in words, we process thoughts in pictures. Pretend you have just called a business and you hear this, “Thanks for calling Friendly Automotive. This is Justin. How may I help you!” Do you know a Justin? Did you see another Justin just now? How about a Don or a Jim? Our brain automatically fills in the blanks with the faces of real people we know or have known. This creates a sense of trust and friendliness in the customer’s mind. Some shop owners are reluctant to mention the name of the technician who worked on the customer’s car because they think the customer will want to talk directly to the technician. From personal experience, this is an unfounded fear and stops customers from that perennial statement, “Ever since they worked on my car . . . ” Consider posting pictures of your techs next to their ASE credentials so customers see your tech as a real person rather than “someone out there.”
Notice that the last sentence Justin added to his greeting is, “How may I help you!” This is referred to as the offer to serve and is recommended because it is more than mere words. It tells the caller that this person is an expert and if you, as the customer, will just state what your needs are, this service adviser will get right on it for you. Notice it is a statement, not a question. A statement takes control of the greeting and customer. It literally moves the call along. Turning the offer to serve into a question will not accomplish the same outcome. Practice the offer to serve so that emphasis is placed on the “How” and the voice then trails down at the end of the statement.
Your greeting should be delivered at the same measured pace no matter how busy you are. Customers prefer not to hear you sweat! When your people slow down just one second when answering the telephone, how much time in a day will they waste in answering 60 calls? How important is that one minute in setting the stage? Practice taking four seconds to answer each call. Your service adviser and others, who set the stage by attracting customers to your business, should consider every call they accept as a “performance.” Please don’t use a technician for this. This should not be a part of their job description. The person answering your phones should love people before things.
Create such friendly phone skills that your customers look forward to talking to Ed or Scott or Mandy when they call your business.
These simple techniques will make your business more memorable. It takes little time to “perform” the call right. Let’s capture each call with style, grace and enthusiasm.
Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. A full lineup of AMI instructors will be sharing their knowledge throughout the year on a variety of topics including training and equipping your staff, goal setting, cross promoting, increasing car count during slow times and much more. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org.
Margie Seyfer of Impact Presentations helps clients incorporate superior customer service by training, coaching and personal accountability in the quest of attracting and retaining customers. She can be reached at (303) 233-0836 or Seyfermarg@aol.com. To view video clips, visit her Web site at www.margieseyfer.com.
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