The Truth About Phone Training
Fifteen to twenty seconds. That’s the amount of time you have to make a great impression on the phone, Nancy Friedman, or, as she’s known in the automotive industry, the telephone doctor, says.
Friedman knows firsthand how important telephone etiquette is. In fact, it was negative experiences on the phone that led her to founding her company, The Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, where she helps companies communicate better with their customers.
“I called my insurance company and told them to cancel all of my accounts,” Friedman says. “When they asked why, I told them, ‘Your people stink! They’re so unfriendly and unpleasant and unhelpful.’ They asked me to come in and show them how to do it right.”
Friedman went in and told the company what it could do better on the phone. Word got out on what a good job she did and she began to get calls to speak with other companies. She’s since gathered an impressive list of clients including CARSTAR, Precision Auto Tune, Christian Brothers Automotive and has also spoken at SEMA eight times.
Friedman works with many different industries, but she says, in her experience, she’s noticed that dealerships do not place as much emphasis on the importance of phone training—which is a huge issue.
“More business is lost due to poor service and treatment than poor product,” Friedman says.
Friedman dispels a few myths about phone training in the parts department.
Myth: Phone training isn’t needed unless you work in a call center.
Fact: Friedman’s client list includes a wide variety of industries and she says that there’s a direct correlation between CSI and phone training. Nordstrom, Apple and Chick-fil-A are all companies that score highly with customers that also utilize phone training.
Myth: Only people who regularly answer the phone should be trained.
Fact: It’s not just people at the front desk that should be trained; every single person within the parts department should be trained on the phone because chances are, at one point or another, he or she will have to answer the phone and one negative experience can be the difference in whether or not a customer comes in.
“Why are we only training some people?” Friedman says. “My job is to show management that you shouldn’t leave anyone out. You don’t know who will be promoted or who will be there to answer the phone. If you want to see your bottom line go up, train all of your people.”
Myth: One training session is enough.
Fact: Continual training is needed to achieve the best results. Not even once per year is enough, explains Friedman.
“Training is like an automobile; if you don’t take care of it, what’s going to happen?” Friedman says. “It’s going to fall apart, or you’ll have to spend more money fixing it—it’s the same with training. If it’s not done on some sort of consistent basis, it falls apart.”
Even people who are extremely skilled on the phone need a refresher, says Friedman.
Myth: Some people are just bad on the phone.
Fact: Some people may not like being on the phone, but that doesn’t mean they’re doomed to have terrible phone skills for the rest of their lives. Chances are, they’ve never been taught how, explains Friedman.
For people that are struggling on the phone, Friedman suggests talking to them to find out whether it’s something that they really dislike or if they just aren’t sure what to do. If they dislike it and someone else is better equipped to answer the phone, don’t force it. If they like working with people and they just don’t know how, improving their skills could be as easy as giving them new words to use, Friedman says.
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