Friday, February 15, 2013

Auto Dealers - Setting Up Call Centers

In years gone by the greatest and most effective form of bring business to American and Canadian storefronts was the "Yellow Pages". Indeed the summary phrase of pre-internet business high tech jump on the band wagon was "Let Your Fingers Do the Walking". What this translated to was "Use the phone for sales and marketing rather than having to drive across town to knock on your prospects door to make the sale". It's a lot more efficient and profitable overall.

What this translated to was that if you or your sales staff could make a single phone call, or phone calls to prospects and customers it was a lot more timely, efficient and cost effective ( for the most part) than getting into a car and physically driving over and meeting the customer or potential client face to face physically. Sure things have sped up; we now have computers, emails and blackberries as well as iPhones.

Still the greatest majority of people can be contacted and communicated on the spot by phone so phone calls and call centers are still of great use and cost effective. On top of that in North America, Canada, and the USA local and many long distance phone calls and calling are flat rates so there are no incremental costs over monthly phone basic charges for calls made.

Yet often in the sales process the best sales staffs are promoted as a reward to management positions. The culture and mindset is that immediate action, even preferred to planning and the planning process is preferred and of top priority. Yet it can be said that the best way to sail in a large gale storm is not to be safely in port and not in the storm in the first place. A call center may be considered by a single dealer or dealership group. The role of the call center can be auto sale solicitation, follow-up after a period of time for repeat sales, follow-up on quality control for sales or for the auto service departments. Phone centers can also be employed in simple "cold calling "for auto, truck or S.U.V. sales, service or financing. Yet before the die is cast a sound business plan is essential.

Here are some basic and helpful tips in planning for a well run and effective call center or centers:

1) Determine what the basic objectives of call center should be in your dealership or dealership group so that your staff and management fully develop a plan and plans to meet those objectives fully and comprehensively

2) Plans should be as simple and basic as humanely possible. Yet with different points of view and perspectives plans seem to grow legs and pull in many different directions (all at once). Once set on paper see if the person in charge, group or even committee can simplify plans. It's not easy to say the least. Everything always is based on essential basic and foundation steps. Try to have them whittle any steps and procedures down to raw simple basics only.

3) Costs. Take note that costs of any call center operation often grow past initial planned for budgets. If costs do grow significantly remember that "Rome was not built in a day". It will both take some time for the call center as well as staff to get up to snuff. On top of that it may well take some extended period and periods of time to recoup costs. The message is not to seriously burden and even overburden the center to recover costs pronto. Such tactics and approaches can ultimately be extremely counterproductive to a great future call center operation of yours.

4) Treat your call center as an entirely different operation and even department within the dealership or dealership group

5) The call center should both be located in a physically safe place with easy access of both public transportation and as well have parking allocated to staff (free or within reasonable costs as compared to projected employees earnings or commissions). As well the actual working environments or cubicles should be comfortable and clean

6) Having the correct person for the calls. Different calls and situations require different levels of expertise. Simple calls such as service or sales call appointment bookings require minimal technical expertise. On the other hand if tech support is required then either the person at hand must either have a fair and reasonable level of expertise and vocabulary or at least have enough expertise that they can call in a more experienced call in person. It's a case often that you don't need to know but know how and who to ask for help.

7) Hire an experienced supervisor to both hire good staff, and as well train new staff or staff for new areas, products or sales promotions. Like it or not even the best call centers have some staff turnover. It's a fact of life

8) Make extensive use of scripts and talk tracks wherever possible. As well recordings of phone calls should be seen as positive help support rather than big brother watching staff and a means of negative feedback and punishment. Your call center should not emulate Stalinist Russia.

9) Have excellent, fair and clear pay and bonus plans elaborated. It's to both to your benefit, the dealerships and staff as well. Remember if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys.

Now those basic steps are in place its show time. Yet make sure you have clear start up short-term goals elaborated and clearly detailed to call center management, supervisory staff and front line phone workers.

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