Let’s take a minute to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. How frustrating is it when you know your car needs, let’s say just standard maintenance. We’ve hit the 3000-mile mark, and we need the manufacturer-recommended oil changed, maybe some new wiper blades, or just an overall tune-up before you hit the road for that Labor Day Weekend road trip to close out the summer. You call your dealership to schedule an appointment, only to be kept on hold or passed around from person to person; if you are lucky enough to have someone pick up the phone at all.   Impatience sets in. Your frustration grows. Then suddenly, a service advisor picks up the phone, out of breath, and a little miffed because he or she had to hurry through a consultation with a customer currently in the service lane.

No one is happy, and everyone feels annoyed. The customer on the phone got fed up and has hung up. The customer in the service lane has been rushed to make decision – one, in which they may not be completely at ease. And, the Service Advisor let’s a valuable upsell opportunity slip through his/her fingers simply because they are too harried to think of it.

If we dissect the scenario – four things occurred that are detrimental to growing the dealership’s bottom line:

  • We handed our inbound lead to another dealership/auto mechanic due to a lack of a timely response or poor customer service.
  • We may have lost reoccurring business from an existing service customer because we failed to provide the right amount attention to their needs.
  • We set our Service Advisor up to fail by requiring him or her to respond to a lot of calls promptly, as well as take care of customers and activities in the service lane. By stretching our Service Advisor so thin, both customers and new business opportunities diminish.
  • We’ve lost the opportunity of to gain a future sale from a satisfied and loyal service customer. Simply put – we have failed on four fronts. We lost a lead. We created a bad experience for an existing customer. We lost a future showroom sale.

If we look at the numbers, many dealerships have a tendency to let the process of handling inbound calls fall by the wayside, or they have the wrong people answering the phone. All of which cause the loss of these golden opportunities. We all know that the service department is a dealership’s largest profit center and that 26-percent of inbound calls are service-related, according to the latest CallSource research commissioned by IHM Automotive. We also know more and more consumers are contacting your dealership by phone versus online lead forms. So, why aren’t more dealers investing in the first point of contact with most new opportunities and existing clients? And, consider the calls missed outside business hours.   In a 30-day period, average dealerships have over 100 unanswered or missed calls during these times.  The expectations of today’s consumers are rapidly changing, and businesses must adapt their processes and technology to answer calls efficiently and provide information quickly.

While we expect our staff members to be customer oriented inside the store, so should be the first point of contact. By having a dedicated live BDC answering calls and strong inbound call processes, your store establishes a level of consistency across multiple channels. It also frees up the bandwidth of the Service Advisor, allowing them to focus on what they are good at – consulting, advising and upselling customers in the service lane.

A June 2015 sampling of 120 dealerships using the ELEAD Contact Center to handle service calls during a 30-day period showed over 70 percent of inbound calls resulted in an appointment when calls were answered and handled properly.

As managers and leaders within our dealership, providing our team with the tools and processes they need to be successful to grow the bottom line is key. While being judicious with our operating budgets is important, playing to the strengths of our team creates growth opportunities for the employee and most of all the customer.

It comes down to three things – does the process free up time for other activities that help grow the bottom line. The service advisor takes on more of a consultant role to the customer while the drive is in the service lane. So is the best use of your Service Advisor’s time answering phone calls and being glued to their desk? It’s the adage of not being able to be in two places at once.

Look at your processes to handle inbound calls and if it provides a unique experience for the customer. Every scenario a customer poses is unique in its own way. At the heart of inbound calls is the beginning and establishing of an ongoing relationship. Dealerships who position themselves as the go-to resource because they’ve committed to being available and quickly providing information win.