Malcolm Gladwell describes his straw man as “success is exclusively a matter of individual merit.” Is there anyone who still believes that? He also says, “10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness.” Practice makes perfect. We live in a data-driven society, and phone interactions are changing quickly. Fortunately for us, there are massive amounts of data available to the automotive industry to utilize so we can make ourselves our best selves. New ideas come from the masses — let’s use them.
Mastery comes from self-discipline — practicing scenarios until we can’t get them wrong. Most of us have a favorite athlete or actor who comes to mind; no matter who you thought of, you can guarantee they practice their sport or lines repeatedly until they can get as close to perfection as possible. We must do the same to perfect our phone performance. Here are some steps to take to get closer to greatness:
Hold Yourself Accountable
Every day, we hear BDC reps — good ones — handling customer calls far short of their capabilities. Why can’t we put our best work forward on a constant basis? It takes making a habit of doing so. As UCLA great John Wooden said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Working on obtaining and surpassing your goals on your own — just as you would if someone was watching — is what it takes to improve.
Become the caller’s best friend. Successful professionals create experiences that drive customer trust and loyalty. Instead of sticking to a script and sounding like a robot, simply talk to the customer. Create an emotional connection; treat the people you speak to on the phone like more than just customers. Ask them how they are doing or how their day has been. Recognize the vehicle they are calling to discuss. If they are calling to trade-in and upgrade to a bigger vehicle, ask if this is a move to grow their family. Make it personal. You’ll start to receive the caller’s contact information as a byproduct of having a dialogue rather than through a rigid process.
Be Tangible and Transparent
Use the actual recordings of calls you have handled to measure your performance. Virtually every auto dealer in the nation has at least a few of their phone lines being recorded and available for their team to review. The majority of dealers record the lion’s share of their calls. Ask for your call recordings so you can hear yourself in action for an extended period — not just reflecting back to calls you recently handled. This provides complete transparency for your development.
Only one in four Americans judges themselves fairly, and half of us are overly self-critical, leaving the rest us pretty pleased with ourselves. Regardless of where you fall, the best way to measure yourself is to use an objective scoring form. While you may disagree on any one point on any given call, over the course of dozens of calls each month, strengths, weaknesses and trends will present themselves. Data-driven training will maximize your development in the shortest amount of time.
We’re all human; we all make mistakes. We won’t hit it off with every caller. Don’t focus on any one fail point. The best call-coaching systems will provide feedback and counseling on more than a handful of calls per month. I believe it takes more than 25 calls to see your true trend — and if you are getting better or worse.
Actionable, User-Friendly Steps
Now that you have your self-assessment data, link it to readily available phone skills training in an actionable and user-friendly fashion. That is, make sure you have training for each data point you are measuring. Your dealership probably has some in-house or online training resources available. If not, there are great free automotive-specific resources available online. Watch coaching videos to sharpen the saw and attend instructor-led online Webinars to train hard.
Time is of the Essence
It is best to review your performance shortly after you have handled a call. Realistically, the end of day is a great time to listen to a couple of calls, score them and reflect on the best practices you can use the next time you receive a similar call. Roleplay with yourself or with another team member on obstacles you haven’t yet faced.
This is how American football teams, among other sports, use game film. They watch film of themselves less than 24 hours after their most recent game to see where they need to improve, regardless of who their next opponent is. They also watch old films of their upcoming opponents to prepare themselves specifically for what they are about to experience.
Don’t let this practice be a flash-in-the-pan event, but instead a part of your culture in your store. Utilize the resources you have to accelerate the process. Becoming your own performance coach is a long-term commitment. It takes months to build successful habits and skills that come naturally, but the benefit of doing so makes it worthwhile.
Even though you are becoming your own performance coach, share the plan with any mentors or managers you have. Some people do better by making a commitment to others around them who are keeping an eye on their progress. Again, just 10 minutes at the end of each day reviewing calls and self-coaching will improve your game and make you a professional.
Consistency is Key
Just as the pros do, consistent practice and ongoing measuring is key to improvement. Measure your results the same way each time so you can track your progress. Don’t change midstream.
Making a commitment to the phone requires after-call work and attention to the details. To become a pro on the phone, practice makes perfect. For a free industry-standard self-assessment form that you may use or modify to help meet your goals, and to learn about online resources that will help you take your phone game to the next level, email me at the address provided.