Best Practices

Does Your Receptionist Suck?

Picture this: A customer, “John Doe,” is just beginning his shopping process, so he starts by investigating dealerships in his area. A quick Google search yields three stores nearby, all with positive reviews and robust inventories. Most customers would submit an internet lead and begin working with a salesperson or BDC agent, but John is old fashioned. He wants to bypass the internet process, preferring to call the dealership directly. In this event, the first contact he would have with each dealership would be the with receptionist or switchboard operator.

Sloth Automotive

First, John calls the dealership closest to him, Sloth Automotive, and is immediately forwarded to an automated message ensuring the customer that they value his call, and a representative will be with him shortly. After holding for roughly five minutes, a receptionist answers with the greeting:

“Thanks for calling Sloth Automotive, how can I help you?” in a droning, monotone voice.

John briefly explains his vehicle of interest, and Mrs. Receptionist puts him on a “brief” hold to fetch a sales representative. Five more minutes pass, and just when John is ready to hang up and move on, the receptionist gets back on the line. She tells him no one is available to take his call, but she offers to direct him to the sales voicemail. He leaves a voicemail, which inevitably will sit alongside the hundreds of other prospect’s voicemails, waiting for a call back that will likely never come.

Complacent Motors

Frustrated with the last dealership, John dials the number for Complacent Motors. He’s heard their radio advertisements, and knows they typically have low prices: Within a couple rings, he hears the receptionist say:

“Complacent Motors,”

John waits a moment to see if she’ll say anything else, but after an awkward silence, he gives this representative the same description of his vehicle of interest, and without saying a word, the receptionist places him on hold. He waits for a couple minutes, until a gruff voice says,

“Complacent Service.”

John is confused, and steadily becoming more and more irritated. He explains that he needs someone in new car sales, not service. John is put on hold with no warning, waiting for the correct person to pick up the phone.

Finally, John reaches a new car sales representative, and he repeats himself for the third time explaining his vehicle of interest. The sales rep tells him there aren’t any available units in his specified color and suggests that John call back in a week to check again.

All Good Auto

At this point, Mr. John Doe is highly considering giving up on dealerships all together and going on Vroom. After all, their Superbowl commercial was memorable. He decides to try the last dealership on his Google search, since it couldn’t possibly be any worse than the last two. John dials the third and final number and waits for disappointment, a.k.a. “anitci-pointment”. After two rings, a cheerful voice answers and says:

“Thank you for calling All Good Auto, this is Tara, how can I help you?”

John is shocked but manages to let the attendant know he’s trying to speak to someone in new car sales. Tara takes his name and number, and with his permission, she places him on a brief hold while she transfers him to a sales representative. In less than a minute, a man answers:

“Hey John! This is David at All Good Auto. How are you doing today? Tara told me you were looking for a new vehicle!”

Within minutes, David had found him a couple inventory options that met his specifications, and they set up a time to test drive. Before John knew it, he was driving away in a brand-new vehicle, completely satisfied.

The Obvious Choice

It’s not difficult to understand why John Doe chose All Good Auto, right? Did it make a difference that Sloth Automotive was right around the corner from John’s house, or that Complacent Motors had lower prices? Absolutely not. Customers are willing to pay more and travel farther for an excellent customer experience, and your customer’s experience starts the moment they pick up the phone to call your dealership.

It’s important to take a close look at who is answering your phones. Your receptionist is your first line of defense against your customers, and they set the tone for the remainder of your customer’s shopping journey. Without proper training and guidance, they may be driving your customers in another direction. First impressions are everything, and unfortunately many dealerships are falling short.

In a study conducted by AllCall during the month of February, we called nearly 1,000 dealerships throughout the country, testing the capability and professionalism of their receptionists. A staggering number of attendants failed to transfer our agents to their requested department, which is arguably the majority of a receptionist’s job description. Friendliness was also a common shortcoming throughout the study. Many of the people we encountered treated our call as an inconvenience, and several said nothing other than the dealership’s name as a greeting.

The Solution

Many of these common issues can be remedied with just a few tweaks in your staff’s phrasing and tone. Be sure to have use your customer’s name multiple times throughout the call, even if it’s only a minute long. Phrases like “my pleasure,” “I’d be happy to,” and “thank you for calling,” can be used to make your customer feel understood rather than heard. Here at AllCall, we call them Winning Words, because the use of them has been proven to increase conversion rates across the board.

Another easy remedy is to have your receptionist warm transfer your customers to their destination. A warm transfer is when the agent puts the customer on a brief hold and speaks to the person receiving the call before they transfer. This gives your sales team the chance to customize their greeting for each customer and presents an opportunity to be informed about the conversation they are about to have. Warm transfers also avoid the straight-to-voicemail debacle completely. If you can prevent your customer from feeling like they are being bounced around from phone-to-phone, they’ll surely thank you for it.

For more information on AllCall’s solutions, visit our website.


I live and breathe customer service! My number one goal will always be to bridge the gap between a business and it's customers. In my time at AllCall,...