By Grady Flowers, the senior community architect at Quantum5.
Cold calling is dead. Or so we are told. Try explaining that to organizations who gave up on cold calling and experienced 42% less growth than companies that continued investing in it (authors Medina, Altschuler and Kosoglow). To those organizations, the reports of the death of cold calling had been greatly exaggerated.
A cold call is an unsolicited outbound call that takes the initiative and doesn’t wait for customers or prospects to call first. In the case of your service department, an outbound call is typically a call placed by your team to a customer to make a service appointment. There are other reasons for the call, of course, including to update customers on the status of their parts order, alert them to an expiring warranty or notify them about a vehicle recall. By contrast, an inbound call, or a warm call, is initiated by the customer to your BDC or service call center.
This article discusses how dealership service and internet managers can optimize their outbound calling to bolster results, improve CSI, drive more profit and build lifetime value.
7 Steps to an Outstanding Outbound Call
Although all cold calls are outbound calls, not all outbound calls are cold. The outbound call can also be the result of email follow-ups or based on a scheduled appointment. No matter its purpose, however, every outbound call is a business opportunity and should be treated as such.
1. Make an effective introduction
First impressions count, especially when outbound calling. Because customers are not expecting your call, they may consider the call an invasion of their privacy. In other words, you are starting with two strikes against you. That’s why your tone must always be friendly and conversational. Remember, you are a consultant.
2. Obtain customer approval to proceed
After your introduction, ask the customer if you may proceed. The main challenge of an outbound call process is that customers are not initiating the contact. This means that you could be calling at an inconvenient time or they may simply screen calls and not pick up because they don’t recognize the number. Respect their time and wishes.
3. State the call’s purpose
Clearly explain to the customer why you’re contacting them. Verify and confirm their need for service, while providing all necessary information. This is an ideal time to set appropriate expectations. No surprises for either your customers or dealership should be the motto.
4. Identify next steps
Consider next steps the 4-Vs stage. Validate customer information to ensure your CRM is current. Verify the customer’s vehicle information, such as VIN and mileage. Value the customer’s time by scheduling additional service appointments, if needed, at the same time. Visit appointment expectations to advise the customer on how much time the service might take.
5. Address customer objections
The objective here is to be prepared. At this step, your outbound callers should be ready for rejection and have a plan to counter customer pushback or hesitations. Time can be a problem for either the customer or the service department, as well as parts availability. The estimated cost of the service (or parts) can also be problematic for the customer. Outbound training that includes role-playing can be helpful in overcoming objections.
6. Set the appointment
All service repairs are not equal, of course. So, when setting the appointment, it is important to first understand the type of work to be performed. For example, Basic or Express service handles oil changes, tire rotations and the like. Advanced service handles the basics and more, including tire alignments and state inspections. Repair service would be the highest level and include diagnostics, factory recalls by certified technicians, comprehensive repairs and maintenance.
7. Recap what will happen
Bring your conversation to a satisfactory conclusion. A successful appointment should benefit both the customer and the service department. To ensure understanding, repeat what service will be performed, as well as the service date and time. Let the customer know you are their service advocate and will communicate any changes requested. End your conversation on an upbeat note by thanking the customer for their business.
Putting it All Together
A successful outbound service call guides the customer to the best available service appointment that meets their vehicle needs in a frictionless way, while advocating for them as a valued customer.
The secret? Training. Dealerships must create a culture where the right people have the right skills. And when they do, their outbound cold calls will receive a warm reception.