As one of the certification managers at RepairPal, I interact with 15 to 30 shops per day on the phone. The purpose of my call is to make contact with the owner or manager, introduce myself and guide them through the RepairPal Certified application process. When I make these phone calls I am on high alert as I am evaluating the shop. Often, I am struck with how poorly the phone is answered: rushed, mumbled sometimes, and immediately put on-hold. On average, 10% of the calls I make will be answered in a way that makes me (their potential customer) feel welcome. The results of my unofficial, unscientific survey on the general phone skills of automotive repair facilities are that they are lacking.Let me explain my views on phone skills. In my 23 years of experience I have come to believe that an investment in the person answering the phone is the most profitable investment your shop can make. Answering the phone is a skill. It is just like diagnosing complex drivability problems. It takes training, practice, intuition, and great listening skills. This person needs to possess the same basic skill set as your drivability technician. This person is effectively the drivability technician for your customers. They must assess the situation, diagnose the customer, set expectations, and deliver the experience. Any misdiagnosis could result in a customer and potential income lost. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on your website, your social media campaigns, advertising, and RepairPal Certification to ensure your phone rings. Your public profile is perfect, clean, and looks great! What will that first impression be when someone calls your shop? Will it match the picture you have spent so much time and energy to create? Checking out a shop online is like looking at someone’s profile on Match.com. Most customers are looking to build a long-term relationship with an auto shop. The pictures look great, they like pina coladas, walking on the beach in the rain, and old movies! This seems like your perfect match. They have a great job, are educated, say intelligent, funny things in their profile, and live near you. PERFECT. You are excited and decide to contact this person. You exchange emails and/or texts and decide to pick up the phone and have a conversation. The phone call goes something like this: Potential Date: bang ##%$@ boom *&%%$ cough: Aw Ello.....You: John? Potential Date: Hey, what’s up?You: It’s Jane. We have been emailing on Match and I wanted to connect over the phone, how are you? Potential Date: I’m alright. You: Silence (internal conversation-this is the guy with the great profile?) Ya?Potential Date: Wanna grab a beer this week? The football game is a game on? I’m not much of a phone person. You: Umm. Well... maybe. I thought we could talk a little and see if we have things in common, get to know each other a little bit. Potential Date: Ummm ok. Whatcha wanna know, there is not much to tell.You: (internal conversation: Seriously? Did his sister write his profile?)You: Hey John, I’ll check my calendar and see when I am free and get back to you, ok. John: Alright... get back at me. You: (internal conversation: Checking calendar: 2000-never is my first opening!)When a customer calls your shop for the very first time they are calling to get to know you. They may have seen your RepairPal Certified profile, webpage, Facebook page, or been referred by a friend. They are calling hoping to make a connection. They want to feel confident in your ability to handle their situation and hopefully make an appointment. If at any point they feel rushed, not listened too, uncomfortable, or like something is not as it was presented, an appointment will not be scheduled and that person will continue their search for the next first date. Unfortunately, that date will be with another shop and you will have lost that potential customer. You have spent tens of thousands of dollars for your OE level scan tools, you have the most up to date alignment and tire equipment, and all the other expenses that go along with keeping your shop well equipped and technically qualified. BUT, have you invested in the one thing that can keep your equipment paying for itself over and over again? You can have all the best equipment, paid for all the best marketing, have the nicest waiting area… Is your car count reflecting your investment? If not, it might be time to evaluate your investment in your service advisors and your front-of-house staff. It might be time to start investing in your most potentially profitable tool - YOUR PHONE and the people who answer the phone. The average repair visit in the U.S. is about $387. If you land the first date you have likely made that initial $387. If you miss that first date opportunity just once a week because you are too busy, miss the call, are tired and cranky, or simply don’t understand that your phone is without a doubt the most important, most profitable tool in your box, you could be losing tens of thousands of dollars. The average person spends about $800 a year on car repair, so missing JUST ONE opportunity per week to create a long-term relationship could result in a loss of $41,000 per year. It’s not enough to be the most technically qualified shop in the country. You have to make sure your skills to land that first date are as up to date as the software in your scan tool. You can have all the tools and training in the world, but if your bays sit idle and you miss the opportunity to keep them productive, it’s money wasted.
If you would like to learn about becoming a RepairPal Certified shop, simply fill out the short form in the upper right of this page, or you can call or email us directly.(800) 969-9204 ext. 2ShopInfo@RepairPal.com
Jill Trotta author
Jill Trotta is an ASE-certified technician and consultant, and the Director of the Automotive Group in charge of the RepairPal Certified shop certification program. She has over 25 years of experience in the automotive industry as a technician, service advisor, parts director, and service manager. She has both dealership and independent repair experience. Jill is passionate about changing the face of automotive repair through education and creating a culture of fairness for both the consumers and business owners.