Just answering every call isn’t enough anymore.
We like to preach a little thing called CRISP: an acronym that helps dealers Connect more callers, Request and Invite prospects to the dealership, Set firm appointments and Pursue missed opportunities. It’s simple, and dealers have seen huge success using it.
I’m excited to launch our AutoSuccess CRISP series, where each month I’ll focus on a different CRISP metric. This month is Connect: the most important and sneakily powerful component to enhance sales and service performance. It can completely change the outlook of your dealership all by itself.
The goal here is quickly connecting callers to someone who can help them at the dealership. Sounds easy, right? Not particularly. The majority of the time, dealers get connecting calls confused with the percentage of answering calls — simply focusing on the latter is tracking the wrong metric. For example, if someone called your phone right now and you let it go to voicemail, was he or she helped? No. That’s not a connected call. Dealerships are generally awesome at quickly answering the phone; where they struggle the most is getting every caller connected to the right person.
Imagine you have several callers interested in a brand-new vehicle listed on your website. It’s a hot model right now, and every sale counts when trying to capture market share. Your phones are ringing off the hook about it. Your receptionists are trying their best at answering every call, yet a majority of prospects aren’t getting through to a qualified salesperson. Oof. Your numbers plummet as a result, and so does your appointment volume for both sales and service.
Once a dealer recognizes the Connection plague affecting his rooftop and takes action upon it, customer retention heightens, CSI scores jump and sales ramp up.
Let’s take a look at The Bad, The Great and The Grand when it comes to Connecting calls.
Service Customer Linda desperately needs her tires rotated; it’s been at least a year since she last had a rotation. She’s been a regular at her preferred service drive for decades but hasn’t been able to reach anyone to set an inspection.
The first time she calls, all the lines are busy (what?). The next time she calls — after listening to a ringing phone for two minutes — she tells the receptionist she needs to speak with Service Advisor Tom, her go-to guy at the drive. The receptionist tells her “just one moment” and sends her to Tom’s full voicemail box. Since Linda can’t leave a voicemail and cannot wait any longer to have her car looked at, she hangs up in frustration, breaks ties with her once-trusted service center and looks up another center that can take her car that day.
What went well: This an appointment opportunity call, so that’s great. The receptionist tries to get Linda to the service advisor for an appointment.
What needed improvement: A lot could have been done differently here, but I’ll highlight the most impactful. First, since most (if not all) of the dealership’s calls are going directly to the receptionist, that receptionist is clearly overwhelmed with how to best handle the volume coming in. A simple solution here would be a bridge to route callers quickly to the service department immediately. The receptionist also should have first made sure Tom was on the other end of the line before sending Linda to voicemail, a practice commonly referred to as a “warm transfer.” Lastly, to avoid this situation in the future, the service drive should ensure the phones are properly staffed at all times, this way, every caller gets connected, every time.
Prospect Polly calls in to book an appointment with Salesperson Steve. The receptionist tries to get Polly connected to Steve but fails because he’s with a customer test driving a car. The receptionist lets Polly know he’s unavailable and to call back later.
What went well: The receptionist didn’t blindly transfer Polly to Steve when he wasn’t at his desk. She first checked to see if there was a person on the other end of the line, rather than just sending him to voicemail. (Customers should only be sent to voicemail if specifically requested.) After learning Steve was unavailable, the receptionist let Polly know.
What needed improvement: There was nothing the receptionist could do about Steve being away from his desk, but how could she have better serviced this customer? First off, the receptionist should have transferred Polly to an available manager who could handle her request.
Next, she should have operated the call with a How can I help you? mentality. What she could have done was said “I’m sorry, but Steve is actually away from his phone at the moment. Is there anything I can help you with though? Is there anything I can do for you?” If Polly declines, the receptionist’s next follow-up question should be “No problem, can I take a live message for you then and I’ll make sure Steve sees it right away?”
Good thing Polly wasn’t sent to a voicemail black hole: an unfortunate place where callers’ needs go unfulfilled and are rarely followed up with. However, the receptionist could have gone the extra mile to ensure Polly got connected to a qualified salesperson who could book her appointment.
Bob is a new caller. He calls in regarding a vehicle he saw on a CarGurus ad. He is connected immediately with BDC Agent Amanda. She asks for Bob’s name and uses it frequently throughout the conversation. Since this is an appointment-oriented call, she asks several questions related to Bob’s vehicle preferences: “Are you interested in a new or used vehicle? Would you like a particular year or age range? Are you price or gas mileage shopping?” Bob lets her know he’s interested in a used midsize sedan with the best safety features and low gas mileage. He has some wiggle room with his monthly payment and a good trade-in. Amanda assures Bob the dealership will have the perfect car for him and that she’ll work hard to meet his needs. He ends up booking a firm appointment, finding his ideal car and purchasing.
What went well: The immediate thing I notice here is that they have a well-staffed and highly trained BDC to connect every sales opportunity to a qualified agent. Also, Amanda built rapport with Bob by repeating his name several times throughout the call. Doing so also makes him feel he’s being taken care of and that he has her full attention. She also did a great job asking vehicle-specific questions. Based on our data, 87 percent of customers buy a different vehicle than the one they originally envisioned, so getting information on what type of vehicle a customer is looking for is critical. When the agent assured Bob she’d do anything to accommodate his needs, she promoted the dealership’s brand and tailored what she said to Bob based on his interests.
What needed improvement: This example was a perfectly handled call. The customer was quickly connected and sold on Amanda’s abilities, as well as the quality of the dealership. This is what every dealership phone handler should strive for on appointment opportunity calls.
It costs hundreds of dollars to make the phone ring. Your leads are precious. Connection has the power to drive real change for your bottom line. Once you get a grip on Connect, marketing costs and overall spending will go down, while sales will go up. Do more with the leads you’re already driving — make Connection your team’s number-one priority this month.
Let me know how your team is becoming CRISP in the comments below.