Have you ever tried to call a dealership – whether it’s to inquire about a vehicle or schedule a service appointment – just to get placed on eternal hold or thrown into someone’s voicemail? Many consumers have and, just like you, they don’t like it.

 

People are busy. When they pick up the phone to schedule a service appointment, or try to get information about a vehicle when they are in-market, if the first impression you give them is hold music, or voicemail boxes, they could easily move on to the next dealership – especially if they are a sales customer.

 

Most dealers, however, just assume that everything is going smoothly because they don’t hear complaints about the issue. The reason they don’t hear is because the people who WOULD complain don’t bother to call again – and, perhaps, never come in again.

 

Every dealership has a receptionist. Some have one for sales and one for service. Some even assign call tracking numbers to each department so that they can monitor the outcomes of these calls. Or, at the very least, track the volume of them. The problem is that many dealers will have two or three phone numbers on their website – sales, service and parts. The customer, however, doesn’t know or care about the difference. They just call the first one that they see. So inevitably dealers will have sales calls coming in on the service line and vice versa. Oftentimes there is a single “main” receptionist handling all of the calls and routing them to the proper departments. But they can easily get overwhelmed. What happens to those customers that called for sales, were put on hold and then hung up? Or they called for service to schedule an appointment and the same thing occurred?

 

Chances are that you’re paying a receptionist minimum wage (or close to it) to answer and route the calls. Between sales, service and parts, I bet that there are times when they are overwhelmed. They transfer the call and assume that the call will be answered. Too often it’s not. In each and every one of those cases, many times the dealership either lost a sale or parts/service revenue.

 

Today’s consumer is all about efficiency and simplicity. The less time you can take up to achieve their goal when they try to contact you, the more likely they are to appreciate and think highly of you. If you make things easy for them, they will appreciate it and have a positive experience.

 

If it’s difficult to do business with you, the opposite will occur. Customer loyalty is something that is built over time. It’s great to ensure that the customer has an excellent experience and feels appreciated when they’re physically AT your dealership. But that experience has to extend to any contact or interaction they have WITH you as well.

 

If you’re using call tracking numbers, monitor those calls religiously. Make sure that any unanswered calls up are called back promptly. Apologize that nobody picked up the phone and assist them. I promise that they’ll be impressed. People understand that you get busy. Perhaps they meant to try to call back later, perhaps not. But if you call them back first, not only will they forgive you, but you’ll impress them too.

 

That’s how you build a loyal (and profitable) following. Make sure that each customer who TRYS to do business with you is able to. Don’t let a dropped call result in a lost sale or repair order. It can easily happen. But it can also be remedied easily. And that pro-activeness can go a long ways to retaining and building a solid customer foundation that you can count on.

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Comment by steven chessin on October 1, 2016 at 12:07pm

"Every dealership has a receptionist"

Mike - this is incorrect.I call many dealers - and often visit - and the percentage is probably about half. In better stores the receptionist cannot leave her station  without having someone sit-in --- and a few rare stores have 2 so that a live customer would not have to wait while phones are answered or other duties performed. One of those duties is to properly escort customers to someone else or a waiting area or cafe.

I know that it seems amazing that such a basic professional process would not be all sorted-out by now  - but there are many foundational problems at dealerships - such as customer parking. 

And I am talking about franchises  -- the used car stores are far more careless. Mike  --- I visit stores that do not have business cards  - or email on the card - and even poorly maintained rest rooms ! 

 

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