Phone Etiquette for Automotive Customer Service
When people think of the term ‘customer service’, the first thing that comes to mind is the image of a person sitting behind a reception desk welcoming customers. A customer service professional talks to customers, advises them, and usually has to receive and resolve any complaints they may have.
However, in automotive customer service all of these activities doesn’t just take place face-to-face, it also takes place on the telephone!
While using a telephone might be something most of us take for granted, there are some unwritten rules or basic etiquette when it comes to doing so.
Identify yourself and the company you represent
Whether you are placing a call to a customer or receiving one from them, the first thing you should always do is to identify yourself and the company you’re representing. This is to avoid the customer from having to ask who you are, it minimizes any confusion, and it gives you a chance to impress them with your introduction!
Introductions should not be complicated. A simple “Hi my name is John from XYZ Company” is more than enough to set the right tone for the rest of the discussion.
Confirm who you’re speaking to and Use their name often
Once you’ve established who you are on the call, the next step is to establish who the other person is. This holds true for both receiving and placing calls with customers.
“Am I speaking to Mr. John?” is a simple way to confirm when you’re trying to reach your customer, or if you’re receiving a call from someone unknown, be sure to ask “May I know who I’m speaking to, please?”
Once you’ve established who you’re speaking to, use the name often. As I shared in my other article, Building Rapport in Automotive Customer Service, that one of the best way to build comfort and strengthen the relationship with a customer is to use their name often in the conversation. The simple reason for this is because human beings love to hear the sound of their own name, so be sure to use their name respectfully and with the appropriate titles (e.g. Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc.).
Ask if it’s a good time to talk
Whenever you place an outgoing call to a customer, always remember that you have no idea what they’re doing on the other side of that call. They could be driving, eating, or even in the middle of a meeting.
If they miss your call, be sure to try and call again later but only after you’ve put some time between call attempts. Remember, it can be quite annoying when we ignore a call but the same person calls back 3 or more times repeatedly. If a customer misses your call, it’s safe to assume that they’re busy. Give them some time to call you back, but if they don’t, feel free to call them again later.
The only exception to this unwritten rule is if it is something that is absolutely urgent. Otherwise, relax, call them later in 15-30 minutes.
Ask, don’t tell
Think about the purpose of the call that you’re on with your customer. Sometimes it may just be to deliver information, but sometimes it’s a call that may require action on the customer’s part. An example of this would be that you need to inform a customer that a payment is due. While it is something that the customer needs to act on, its always more polite to frame your communication as a request instead of an order; that way it maintains the positive vibe of the call and your customer will not feel offended.
Instead of saying “You need to make a payment by this date”, try asking “Would it be possible for you to make payment by this date?”.
Even though the end result is to get the customer to perform a certain action, good customer service requires that you achieve that goal through persuasion, and never through instruction.
Believe it or not, it is extremely important that you smile when speaking to a customer on the phone, even though they can’t see your face at all.
Can you guess why?
When a person talking to you on the phone is smiling, you can actually ‘hear’ it in their voice because a smiling face affects the tone of your voice. Even if you’re feeling stressed or tired, a ‘forced’ smile will have the same effect on your voice when speaking on the telephone.
Try it out! Call your friends or record the sound of your voice and compare how it sounds when you smile and when you frown. The difference can be quite amazing.
Practice, practice, practice
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to becoming good on the telephone in automotive customer service. The bad news is that it requires a lot of practice, and if you’re not naturally good at it, talking to people on the phone will feel awkward and stressful (but only for awhile!).
The good news is that there are an endless amount of ways to practice until you get good at it. Pick up the phone and call your friends and family often. Instead of looking for information online, call the company and ask the operator personally. Get used to talking to people on the phone and slowly but surely you’ll become good at it by developing comfort and experience when speaking on the telephone.