By David Malone, VP of Sales, InteractiveTel
Customer experience can make or break a dealership. It is a term often used when making marketing strategy plans, but is it front of mind for every dealership employee; especially those who communicate with customers directly? If your sales and BDC staff are relying on old school phone and internet techniques, it’s not. The language salespeople use with customers IS the customer experience and from greeting to close, it needs to be customer centric.
Your first opportunity to provide superior customer experience to your phone customers is in the greeting. Most businesses, customer facing or not, answer the phone the same basic way: business name, agent name and a “how can I help you?”. It’s professional, succinct and void of any meaning to a caller who has probably heard the exact same greeting thousands of times over the course of their life.
Here is an opportunity to say something a little different to set yourself out from the competition and to snap the caller to attention. Try a small shift in wording by answering the phone “Hi, this is Bill. I can help you.” Then whomever answers the phone needs to take ownership for that call and customer and not simply transfer them into the netherworld of automated voice trees or voicemails. By changing the way you answer the phone in that minute way, you are telling the customer that YOU can help them, not that SOMEONE can.
After greeting a customer, the next step in a well-planned incoming phone call strategy would be to qualify a bit and gather contact information. Here is where a lot of salespeople tend to lean on old sales techniques that were designed to shuffle a customer along their shopping journey ASAP. There has been enough car shopping data analysis for us to know that car shoppers HATE feeling pressured and especially hate feeling like they are being rushed through a shopping process. That data did not exist when these old techniques were crafted, so using a sales strategy that doesn’t take those factors into perspective today will drive shoppers away indefinitely.
Needs assessment over the phone is very difficult to execute with a customer-centric approach as the process itself is designed to narrow a customer down to one vehicle. That is the very definition of pushing a customer along the shopping journey. The needs assessment/qualifying question over the phone has changed very little from the day car dealerships started to use the phone. It has always been some form of: “Is this the only one you would consider?” Anyone who spends time listening to recorded calls knows that this is the question that changes the entire tone of the call and can cause customers to shut down. Try offering the customer something here instead of asking of them. Something like: “While I am checking on this, should I keep an eye out for anything new that is coming in today as well?”
Gathering complete contact information is the second most important element of taking a phone up besides inviting the customer into the dealership. The key to gathering complete contact information in a customer centric way is to offer a valid reason for them to share it. This is another area where I would advise not saying the same thing to every caller. Customize your request by mentioning their question when you ask for it: “Let me check right now while you’re on the phone to make sure it is available for a test drive today AND confirm that this is the price. What number can I reach you back on in case we are disconnected?” Some people choose to rely on Caller ID over properly asking for it, and shoppers can find that creepy and are not usually calling from their best contact number.
The only reason a BDC agent or salespeople answers a phone up is to set an appointment with the caller. In order to provide a good customer experience in this area would be to treat it less like an ‘appointment’ and more like an invitation. Don’t think of yourself as “selling an appointment,” because you’re not. You are not taking money from a customer to show up at the dealership. You would however very much appreciate their presence so you may then sell them a vehicle.
That being said, avoid using the word ‘appointment’ when inviting people in. That word alone is enough to provide a poor customer experience. Customers know that they can come into the dealership at any time with or without an appointment and can buy a car. Rather than sell an “appointment,” sell an experience. An example of an experience is one that involves VIP treatment and reduces time spent by offering to have the car ready for them when they show up at a certain time.
Closing a phone up with or without an appointment is your next chance to provide the best possible customer experience. If closing with an appointment, be sure the customer knows exactly where you are located, where to go once they drive onto your lot and who to ask for. Offer to send directions, but still give them a basic visual idea. If closing without an appointment be specific about your next agreed upon interaction. End the call by recapping why you are calling back and verbalize exact expectations for it. If you let people know what to expect, the next time you speak to them, you will find fewer people avoiding your calls.
About the Author
As an Automotive Specialist, David Malone is the VP of Sales for InteractiveTel. He comes with a lot of experience running large and strong organizations starting out in 1990 on the auto finance space.