By Jeremy A. Abramson, General Manager at Brandfon Honda.
In the age of cell phones, does anyone still have a land line? And, before you say yes, better check to see if it's VoIP or the old-school land line. Some of the younger generation doesn’t even know what a land line is these days.
This isn't going to be an anti-technology rant — just the opposite. Technology is amazing and, when used properly, can propel us faster and faster toward our goals. But at what cost?
About a year ago, Eric Pickersgill compiled a series of photographs and removed smartphones from the pictures in an attempt to show how we appear these days with our cell phones in hand. It’s pretty cool and has gotten more than two million views.
All you have to do is walk through any department in your store and you’ll see people on their cell phones. Salespeople texting while customers are at their desk, BDC reps with a phone on one ear and a cell in hand, techs with a wrench in one hand and a cell in another and, worst of all, a receptionist with her head buried in her cell phone, not even looking up when a customer comes in.
At the risk of sounding old, when I was on the floor we didn't even have land lines on our desks; that's because my mentor/tormentor taught me that when you’re sitting in front of a customer, there's nothing more important in the world at that moment then them. They are spending tens of thousands of dollars and they deserve the respect and attention of their salesperson.
He also taught me to control the controllables, so in an age where cell phones have become a permanent part of the landscape I ask you this?
Have you called your store lately?
Have you called your store, because your customers have, and more than likely, they sit on hold and can’t get anyone on line, which is exactly why salespeople are giving out their private cell phone numbers.
It's great that the salesperson is going above and beyond to stay in touch with the customer during the sale, but the relationship that you invested in shouldn't rely on the salesperson’s availability. Contact with your customers should not be dependent on a salesperson answering their cell phone.
Control the controllables. It’s not in the best interest of customer service and long-term retention for the main contact number at the store you spent millions of dollars building to be the salesperson’s cell phone number. Consider restricting that practice and transferring calls directly from reception to the salesperson’s cell phone.
How about management? When you want to speak with one of your managers, do you call them at the store or on their cell phone?
We may have gotten away from land lines at home but are far from being able to do so in our stores. Whether you have a phone tree or a live person answering the phone, you need to stop calling your managers on their cell phones and start calling them at the store.
Not only will you get to experience the pain your customers endure while waiting on endless holds, you’ll may find some outdated messages, like the Fourth of July sale, the CSI messages from managers that aren’t there anymore, or my favorite one that I heard not too long ago, the exciting announcement of the all-new redesigned 2012 coming soon.
When I first got into the business, a sharp sales manager told me to sit on the customer’s side of the desk so I could see what the customer sees. Is it a mess or is it neat and clean? Does the view from the customer’s side make you feel like buying or like coming up with an excuse to get out of there?
I ask you do the same from your phone. What does the customer experience when they call your store? How long do they stay on hold? Who are they referred to if the person they are calling for is busy or off that day? I would even disguise your voice and ask for someone that you know is off — see how friendly and helpful the people are on the phone. Does the call make you feel like you called the right place and will get good service, or does it make you feel like hanging up and calling the next store? Just make sure to dial *67 first or they’ll see you on the caller ID — it would be kind of embarrassing if the receptionist called you out for phone popping the store.