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Connected Podcast: Answering to New Phone Expectations

Article Highlights:

  • In a social distancing world, frequent communication is key.
  • How to manage phone communications and customer expectations.

In this episode of Reynolds’ new video podcast, Connected, Jody Huff, Vice President of Telephony and Communications at Reynolds and Reynolds, talks to us about several ways to manage your phone traffic during a shifting retail environment.

 

Greg Uland: Hello, I’m Greg Uland, marketing director at Reynolds and Reynolds, and this is Connected, the podcast with best practices and ideas to help navigate what is happening in the automotive retail industry and the world today. As the COVID-19 virus continues to change our world and how we live and work daily, this podcast discusses ways to continue operating in this unprecedented social environment. On today’s episode we have with us, Jody Huff, Vice President of Telephony and Communications at Reynolds and Reynolds. Jody, thanks for hopping on.

 

Jody Huff: Hey, Greg. Thanks for having me.

 

GU: Absolutely. Jody, today I’m hoping to talk with you about best practices on the phones in dealerships. It is certainly a unique time with a lot of salespeople and BDC folks working from home. So what are some things to keep in mind for dealers and best practices while handling phone calls?

 

JH: It’s definitely an odd time in our country. Some of the things that we’re recommending is first and foremost, calls that are coming into the dealership need to be redirected to someone’s cell phone or, in some cases, you get directed to their home phone. But the key right now is you don’t want consumers calling into a dealership and bouncing around a phone tree with slow response times, and sometimes those voicemails end up in cyberspace, so to speak, and no one ever returns their calls. And so right now, having that phone ringing to a specific person’s cell phone, again, or home phone would be the first thing I would recommend. And following along those lines, you need to make sure that you’re checking your voicemails on a regular basis. I would say a regular basis would be at a minimum, once every hour. In the pandemic that we’re in, with shelter-in-place orders in effect, five minutes waiting for someone can seem like an eternity, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid. We’ve also seen in some stores, many cases where there’s still extensions and voicemail set up for associates that haven’t worked at those dealerships in many months or in some cases even years. They get in a phone tree, they bounce around and the next thing you know, they’re in a voicemail that’s no longer being actively checked. I would say also, last but not least, you want to make sure you’re capturing that caller data and getting it into your CRM properly. Because what we are seeing is dealers are still spending a fair amount of money in advertising to bring people to the back-end of their store, to get the phones to ring, and you want to take advantage of every opportunity you have. Greg, not just now, but when we get back to the “new normal”, those are great follow up calls. That’s great information that you could build some extra marketing campaigns around. So I would go back to making sure, number one, your phones are ringing to the right place. Number two, checking your voicemails on a regular basis. Number three, let’s make sure we’re capturing that data and putting it into our CRM.

 

GU: Great reminders. Some of those things are really fundamental and they just get looked over. Or as you’re going through uncertain times, it can be hard to remember to handle those things.

 

JH: Absolutely.

 

GU: So I am curious, beyond those general best practices, what are some other things that you’re seeing work well for dealers right now when it comes to the phone calls?

 

JH: What we’re seeing actually, Greg, is an uptick in texting. And I think that’s due to the immediate response nature of how we handle our texts versus how we handle a phone call. And I can’t say it enough, response time in this environment is very important. So the texts have increased; customers expect an immediate response on that. Much like you’re manning your voicemails, as we mentioned earlier, you need to make sure you’re on your texting game as well.

 

GU: And when you’re thinking about texting, I think back to the last car I bought, I did a lot of communication via text message and I always wonder, how much of that communication, to your point a second ago, got into the CRM. So I’m sure that’s part of it too, to your earlier point as well.

 

JH: Absolutely. Because if you don’t capture that, that doesn’t go in the CRM? It’s useless information.

 

GU: Right. So, Jody, can you also touch on a little bit about the back-end of the store. For a lot of dealers, that’s all that’s operating right now or certainly operating at full capacity or somewhere near it. Can you touch on phone calls in parts and service?

 

JH: Absolutely. What’s really unique right now is we’re actually seeing business on the increase in many service and parts departments. One of the best practices that we’re recommending is service appointment reminder calls, or could be text or emails, but reminding folks about their service appointment not only is reducing their no-show rate, but it’s helping set the tone for the visit. You can cover check-in procedures, drop off, even how you’re going to go through the pick-up process. But it’s also a nice way to reach out and let them know, hey, you’re still going strong, you’re still on top of your game.

 

I would have a strong recommendation for the parts business that you have a specific phone line setup that rings directly into the parts department. We’re seeing many dealers that are still doing well in wholesale parts, and having that phone line set up with a voicemail that’s checked regularly will help them make the most of those opportunities. Because, Greg, in any situation right now, a slow response time is probably going to lead that consumer or even that other dealership that’s calling you, they’re probably going to pick it up and call someone else.

 

GU: I agree. I think we’re all, at least you and I are certainly at home, right. And we’re by ourselves and when you’re trying to connect with somebody, that waiting game just feels like a long time. Jody, I definitely appreciate you taking some time to talk through this today and taking time out of your schedule. While you’re here and while we have the audience, is there anything else that you’d want to touch on or talk about before we get out of here?

 

JH: What we’ve seen, Greg, just in the industry in general, most consumers have been very understanding. But the longer that we’re under the pandemic and the self-isolation, I’m starting to see the tensions get up there a little bit. And this is a good time for us to spend some time with our staff and the dealerships on training. Let’s train ourselves, our people. Let’s make sure the BDC knows how to handle these calls. And even your service advisors. Take those recorded phone calls, show them an example of what a good call sounds like, and maybe you show them an example of what a not so good call sounds like too. But use this time to train your folks because we’re probably doing more communication from the consumer to the dealership over the phone right now than probably any time in our history due to the conditions we’re in. So I think it’s a great time for training and a great time to encourage your team that you’re still there for them too.

 

GU: Very good. Well, Jody, thank you again. I really do appreciate you coming on.

 

JH: Absolutely. Thanks, Greg. Have a good one.

 

GU: You, too. Thanks. This has been Connected. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the next episode.

 

Continue to tune in often to see new episodes on best practices and tips for navigating the automotive industry during this unprecedented time.

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