Upskill Your Phone Handling
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by
Patrick Condron
| 24 March 2022

Upskill Your Phone Handling

Phone calls are often the first interaction customers have with your dealership. How you handle these calls determines whether or not they want to do business with you.

Phone call handling is one of the most important processes your dealership should focus on. You invest thousands of dollars in advertising to help drive leads to your store. Why wouldn't you want to optimize your phone handling to maximize your ROI?

Better phone handling can help improve your customers' experience, build healthier customer relationships and increase revenue streams. So what can you do to improve your call process? Start by focusing on these basics.

1. People

Be Professional – Being professional, courteous, and thorough on the phone with your customers is pertinent.

Product Knowledge – Every salesperson should know their products inside and out and understand what they have for new and used inventory.

Current Incentives – Your Sales staff should understand current incentives and Service staff should also understand what promotions they have going on in the Service department.

Inventory Shortage – If you have an inventory shortage, then understand the preorder process and how you can work with the consumer to preorder a vehicle. Just because you don't have a vehicle in stock doesn't mean you can't sell them a vehicle.

Staff Phones – Look for peak hours of the day by using your phone analytics tool to understand peak hours for Sales and Service to staff accordingly.

New Hires – When hiring new sales or service candidates, check to see how fast and the quality of their phone/text responses during the hiring process. This will give you a good indicator of how they will respond to a customer.

2. Process

Inbound/Outbound – Establish a consistent and professional communication process for inbound and outbound calls. You should be generating and managing both outbound and inbound leads via the phone. You may receive phone leads from your website, OEM native leads, third-party leads, text, chat and hand raisers. Train your staff on how to handle those specific inbound leads. Don’t forget training on how to call for outbound leads too – CRM, manifest, playbooks and equity mining.

Texting – Train your staff on the proper usage and opt-in laws of texting. Ensure your text messages go through a central CRM.

Process – Ensure all processes are followed and documented in your CRM. Each week managers should be listening to call recordings, looking at call analytics, and spot-checking the CRM to see where gaps may be. Set up monthly phone training sessions with your staff and talk about best practices. If you're are lost or stuck in a rut, work with your phone technology vendors to see if they offer additional training. Make sure you're connecting with customers professionally and setting appointments.

Follow up – Train your staff to confirm the name and number for any additional customer follow-up. Also, have your staff set expectations on a return call and follow up with either text or email. Focus on follow-up timing — just because you haven't heard back from a customer in a week doesn't mean that they're not going to buy.

3. Technology

Phone System – Make sure your phone system is up to date, reliable and cloud-based.

Voicemail – Verify that all voicemail boxes are set up properly and are cleaned out on a regular basis.

Phone Numbers – Check your call tracking numbers to make sure they're ringing to the correct place.

CRM – Your phone system should integrate with your CRM seamlessly.

Texting – Consider using text messages to communicate vehicle status to eliminate calls to the Service department during peak hours.

Analytics – Use your phone analytics tools to analyze your call failure rate and see if you have any gaps.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – Monitor your KPIs in your analytics or call tracking tool to see if your staff is scheduling appointments. Use KPI benchmarks to measure success.

Virtual Options – Offer your customers the option of a virtual video call to answer questions and show inventory over a live video format.

4. Leadership

C.L.O – Establish a “Chief Listening Officer” or dedicated leader who can manage your communication (phone) process for Sales and Service. Part of this leader’s responsibilities should be diving into your call tracking and analytics tool to review performance on a weekly basis.

Metrics – Determine where and why your dealership is succeeding or failing with inbound and outbound calls. This can help with measuring process or training opportunities.

Mystery Shop – This Leader should also call the store during and after hours to double-check the phone process. Are you getting the correct professional greeting? How many calls before someone picks up the phone? Do you have an after-hours BDC? How does it perform? Top dealers mystery shop their stores on a daily basis.

Review – Dive into your call recordings and spot-check the salespeople that are currently struggling. Why are they struggling? Where do they need help to be more successful? Do they have trouble setting appointments? How fast do they follow up with leads?

Dealerships must keep up with the rapid changes in technology and consumer demand. Monitoring your phone process takes time and can feel tedious, but you don’t have to listen to every call. Instead, start with calls lasting seven minutes or more, as these are often the weakest. Long calls typically indicate a lack of control and/or poor appointment-setting skills. These calls can uncover the most opportunity for improvement within the dealership. You need to make sure you have a plan in place to move the customer farther along the sales funnel each and every time. Good luck and good selling!

Patrick Condon
Patrick Condron

Patrick Condron is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at CDK Global and has spent over 20 years consulting with OEMs and dealers. Patrick is passionate about helping dealerships innovate and drive success in this digital-driven world.