Because most of us talk on the phone every day, it’s easy to take basic phone skills for granted and to start treating phone etiquette casually. But for your business, the phone skills of you and your team can make or break whether a car owner feels comfortable bringing their car to your shop. Often, a car owner will call, not just to get a question answered, but to form an opinion about your shop by the way you sound on the phone. The good side is – great phone skills can be developed and they can go a long way in building rapport and trust. At RepairPal, we record customer calls into our certified shops for quality control and tracking. Based on what we’ve learned from listening to hundreds of consumer calls to shops, here are seven things you can do to improve your phone skills that will help your business.
1. Answer the phone! This may seem really obvious, but it’s always shocking to us how many shops fail to do this! It’s surprising how many repair shops are too busy to answer the phone during business hours, or when they do, they readily put a customer on hold for an unforgivable amount of time. A general rule is to not let the phone ring more than three times before you answer it.
If you do have to put someone on hold, politely ask if you can put them on hold. Studies show that hold music keeps people from hanging up while on hold. Try to keep people on hold for as short a time as possible and when you do get back to them, thank them for holding.. (It’s good to have a caller id system on your phone so that if your caller gets impatient and hangs up, you can call them back right away.)
Your competitor’s shop is just a dial away, so do your best to answer the phone during business hours.
2. Say your name and the name of your shop when you answer the phone. Identifying yourself and your shop when you answer the phone assures the customer that they came to the right place. Just answering with a “Hello?” or “Hello, this is Jake,” doesn’t do it. “Hello, this is Jake at Sunnyvale Auto. How may I help you?” – is the way to go.
3. Smile: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but since your callers can’t see the expression on your face or read your body language when you’re talking on the phone, you need to win them over with the tone of your voice. Speak clearly, slowly, and in a positive tone. I read about one study where callers called two different control groups. One group of callers stood up and smiled when they called and the other group sat, slouched in their chairs and called. You guessed it – the smiling callers were met with a more positive response! I know one sales person who keeps a mirror by her phone at work to remind herself to smile when she makes client calls.
4. DON’T SHOUT!!!! Your technicians may need to shout to each other because your shop is loud. This doesn’t mean you need to shout at your customers. Make sure your service desk area is quiet and serene with no one is shouting, especially the people answering the phone.
5. Focus. If you answered the phone, then focus on the call. Try not to get distracted by those around you. If someone is distracting you, politely remind them you are on a call and that you will help them shortly.
6. Listen and affirm: The foundation of good phone skills is good listening skills. Do you listen to what your callers are saying? Responding to your caller with a “Yes,” “Yes, I understand,” “I got you,” “Ok,” etc. affirms that you are paying attention to them and the issue they are calling about. And always be clear with your response, whether it’s “Yes, ” “No,” or even a confirmation question: “If I’m understanding you correctly, the noise you are hearing is x, y, or z. Is that right?” Repeating the information from your callers ensures you understand their issue and assures them that you care and have a vested interest in helping them.
7. Handle sensitive information sensitively. If you are discussing sensitive or private information, such as the customer’s credit card was declined or the engine seized and was destroyed because the husband shouldn’t be doing his own oil changes, move to another location that is quiet so your customer doesn’t feel like an entire forum is privy to their car problems!