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   Are you making the most of every opportunity when customers reach out to your dealership? We would all like to think that anyone who comes in, calls, emails or comments online is handled promptly and professionally. But are you sure this is happening every time?  Here are a few customer complaints that remind us to take a fresh look at the processes and the people responsible for front-line response. Let's take a look at three scenarios that might cause customer irritation.

  1. " The phone rings a long time before they pick up, then the person who answers rushes me through the call or doesn't follow up."


   Why does the phone always seem to start ringing at the worst possible times? When your plate is full, it helps to remember who is calling and what is at stake. Almost every call has potential value to the business. The phone call could be an existing customer, who you chance losing if you didn't show them enough attention, or a new customer who is getting a first impression of your business.

    The person who answers these calls is fostering a relationship and creating an impression that will likely stay with the customer who is calling. Make sure these calls are taken seriously and are answered in a polite, timely manner or you may see these customers move on quickly to your competitors.

Here are a few tips that will help your staff successfully field incoming calls.

Proper phone etiquette:

- Answer within three rings if possible. This shows the customer that you value their time.

- Start with a greeting, then state the dealership name, and end with your name.

- Speak slowly.

-Be friendly. You can hear a smile over the phone.

- If multiple calls are coming in at once, simply ask the current customer to hold, grab the other line using your friendly greeting and ask them to hold so that you can get back to your customers in the order that they called.

-If the person they are calling for is not available, offer to take a message. Don't just ask them to call back.

     It can also be useful to have a dealership meeting to discuss how the phone should be handled.

2. " I sent them an email or posted a comment on their web site or social media site and they did not respond."

   Remember when there was just one phone number that a customer could call to get a hold of you? No email to answer, no social media comment to reply to, no texts to worry about. Like it or not, those days are gone, and your business will suffer if you don't manage all modern methods of communication.

   Social media sites can be assets to your business if you are using them correctly. According to January 2010 statistics released by Facebook, there are 400 million active users. Most likely, a majority of your current customers and potential customers are linked in to either Facebook or other social media outlets. This doesn't mean that you have to be on your social media site hours a day. In order to be successful in social media, set aside a predetermined amount of time per day to commit to your page.

   Let's say you are comfortable having an employee spend 25 minutes a day updating your social media sites. That is more than enough time to log on, respond to your customer comments, announce new sales or service promotions and then move on to other matters. Those 25 minutes can make a big difference in your customer communication success rate.

3. " I got an 'auto response' to my email that said they were busy but they did not get back to me."

    Auto response can be a great way to let the customer know that their request got through to you but, similar to voicemail, it can be misused. It is also a relatively new customer touch point and there are some rules of  etiquette that should be followed.

  Auto Response Dos:

- Let the customer know you will get back to them in a certain period of time - a few hours is best.

- Make sure you actually respond to them within that time period.

Auto Response Don'ts:

- Do not let the customers know that you are backed up or that you will get to them when your schedule allows. Communicating this is just as bad as saying " I don't value your time, I don't want your business." Customers will ultimately find a shop that wants their work and values their times.

- Email, like social media, is a great way to stay connected with customers. However, it can have the complete opposite effect and hurt your relationships if not used properly. It is better not to have an email or social media page than to not update them correctly. On a similar note, if you do not have these avenues of technology, you may be putting your business at risk. The only way to use email and social media sites is to commit the time to using them correctly.

The excuses as to why the three scenarios above ( as well as others) happen are plentiful:

- We were busy.

-They are not serious buyers.

-They only want information.

    Take a step back and consider that the average boat owner will purchase about five boats in their lifetime. Consider for a moment all of the parts, service and accessories to go along with those boats purchases. In total, that one customer can amount to a great deal of profit for your dealer over a lifetime.


   Every time your employees answer the phone, respond to an email or update your web site, they should remember the potential that is waiting on the other side. Pick up the phone, follow up with your customers and give your staff a brush up course on their front-line customer service skills. These simple acts can only help build a greater respect for your business within your customer base.

The Customer is Reaching Out, How are You Responding?