The following article is based on roundtable discussion at the 2019 Dealership Minds Summit. To watch the roundtable recap, click here.

Customers don’t like to wait. At the same time, customers don’t necessarily enjoy being passed on to someone who is lacking the expertise to assist them properly. It’s because of this conundrum that when discussing call centers at the dealership, the jury is still out.

The overwhelming theme dealerships are seeing is that for incoming calls, especially for service and parts, the customer already has a relationship formed with someone at the dealership and would like to contact them directly for their needs. Having a call center in place can lead to them being bounced around the dealership or placed on hold. Either way, it’s not a great experience for someone who knows what they need, when they need it and who they want it from.

On the flip side, dealerships who don’t have a call center are seeing high-performing service and parts people being overwhelmed with direct calls from customers that are impossible for them to manage in a timely-fashion, especially when some dealerships are asking that incoming calls be answered within 2 rings and emails be replied to within 5 minutes.

Dealers understand that, at the end of the day, tending to the customer and making sure they are being taken care of is priority No. 1. Part of that process is utilizing the technology that is available to manage employee workloads and create a positive experience for the customer. Among some of the key takeaways from this group were:

  • Training — Expectations and responsibilities internally at the dealership need to be set better so consistently great service can be provided to the customer, regardless of who communicates with them throughout the process.
  • Documentation — Consider using web forms or text message services for customer inquiries and notifications. Doing so still provides a 1-to-1 communication between the dealer employee and customer, but also documents the interaction as well so previous interactions can be referenced during later conversations with the customer.
  • Online Chat — Consider adding a chat box to your website so you can add another documentable form of communication for the customer. This allows you to respond 24/7 remotely, even if to simply let customer know someone will be in contact with them during regular business hours. It also helps set expectations for customers instead of leading them to a dead end.
  • Overflow Calls — Consistently getting someone’s voicemail can be frustrating for a customer and could potentially lead to your dealership losing a sale. To combat this, consider using an overflow call structure. This allows the customer to continue calling a specific person or department directly, but if they don’t answer within a certain number or rings, the call redirects to other departments at the dealership. If you have multiple stores, you could even take if a step further. If the call isn’t answered at the first 2 touchpoints on the flow chart, it could be directed to other locations nearby. Ultimately, the goal is to get the customer in contact with someone who can assist them.

Change is hard, but sometimes necessary to improve processes when it comes to helping customers. The final takeaway from the group was that, whether you are incorporating a call center or some other communication technology, make sure you have a well thought out process in place that will allow your dealership to start small, implement and get comfortable with the simple things, and work your way up to the more difficult things.

More Dealership Minds Summit coverage 

No More Order Takers: Strategies for Motivating & Improving Your Sales Team

8 Factors for Cultivating & Promoting a Professional Culture of Excellence

Compensation Plans: A Tale of Two Dealerships

Van Wall Equipment’s Formula for Clear Sales Strategy

No Sales Left Behind: Using Tech to Boost Your Sales Team

Ritchie: Create a Team of Solution Sellers

Feed Your Sales Team — A Presentation From Shawn Skaggs

The On-Farm Visit: How to Get the Most from Client Face Time

Redefining Your Sales Mindset

Adding Specialized Product Lines Can Expand Your Customer Base

Getting the Salesforce Out of the Dealership & In Front of the Customer

Purchase Projections: Look Beyond the Sale

3 Ways to Get Your Aftermarket Team to Adopt a Sales Mentality

Is a Call Center Right for Your Dealership?