I called a service department to make an appointment one day and was left on hold for at least 10 minutes. I was listening to their on-hold music until I finally hung up. When I called them back, they tried to put me back on hold again, but I explained that I had already waited 10 minutes. "We're really busy here, sir," the person on the other end of the line said in an unfriendly way. So, I sat for another 10 minutes--listening to the same music over and over and over. "I'm busy too," I thought to myself.
I suddenly lost confidence with the way I had been treated, so I immediately lost my interest in taking my vehicle to them anymore. If they can't handle a simple phone call properly, what will they do with my car? So, when they came back on the phone, I nicely said thanks but no thanks and called another shop down the road. That service department lost a customer, because they failed to practice even the most basic business phone etiquette--something they should all know inside and out before they ever pick up the phone.
Here are a few things your staff should know for when they answer your phones:
- Answer the phone: Common sense, right? Well, for some reason I have encountered more than a few service departments where the phone will ring incessantly. No one should ever have to wait for more than six rings and your staff should make it a point to answer by the fourth ring if at all possible. Sure, things get hectic, but it also comes down to planning. If you know that the phone is going to ring more from 8 am to 10 am, why not have enough people there to answer the phones?
- Stay friendly and upbeat: Without exception, being short and terse with customers is a common problem. Customers should be pampered when they call or come to your service department to either drop off or pick up their cars. If you're treating a customer like just another number, they can figure it out rather quickly. Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor's motto says it all--“Be friendly before you know who it is”, because that way you're going to automatically treat everyone with respect.
- Have the right answers: Make certain that your entire crew knows your products and services inside and out, like it's written on the backs of their hands. They should never answer any phone until they know everything and can recite it without hesitation. I called a service department one time and asked what their hours were on Saturdays and the guy had to put me on hold to find out. Really? Sure, we're not all psychics, so with certain parts and types of repairs, your crew members will need to ask, but for most customer-related questions, having the right answers is a must.
- Never abandon a customer on hold: I call hold "voice jail"and I can guarantee no one likes to be stuck on hold. If you're leaving people on hold for more that two minutes as a rule, you're failing. We all understand that when things get busy, you may have to leave people on hold for more than several minutes, but I have learned that if you continually check in with the person on hold, they're much more reasonable and understanding.
If you can instill these four qualities into your crew for the next time the phones get busy, you will see better online reviews and get positive feedback from your customers. People just want to be treated promptly and with courtesy whenever interacting on the phone and that's why phone etiquette should always be stressed in any service department environment.
Ed has been a professional writer for more than 35 years and his specialties include B2B reporting, blogging, ad copywriting, public relations and general editorial.