This is a story of how one dealership went from bad to great on the telephone in just 6 months. Since I started Phone Ninjas in 2009, I have seen my fair share of success stories, but the one I am about to share with you is a classic.
This past February I received a call from Joe Webb, President of Dealer Knows Consulting asking me if I would be willing to join him on a joint training adventure to Granger Motors in Granger, Iowa. He would focus on Internet skills with the sales team and I would work with the BDC on how to handle incoming phone-ups. I eagerly accepted his offer and we made plans to visit Granger in March.
Upon our arrival, we met with the General Manager, Tim Hommer for the first hour to go over our game plan. Tim informed me that I would be training four women with little automotive experience. Their only experience had been answering the phones as receptionist and routing calls to the appropriate dealership departments. This seemed like nothing out of the ordinary for me since I had trained quite a few green peas in my day.
Unfortunately I was in for a rude awakening.
Training took place in the BDC, a small room with just enough room for the five of us. After being introduced, I informed the team that I was going to teach them how to sell appointments. I made the wrong choice in words when I used the word “sell.” I quickly got, “we were never told we would have to sell anything.” Looks of enthusiasm quickly turned to fear and I knew this would be a challenge.
I began teaching the scripts and was met with reluctance every step of the way. Two of the reps felt uncomfortable asking customers for their name and numbers. All of them felt uncomfortable asking for an appointment. By the end of the day I had made three of them cry and one was threatening to quit. By the next morning one of them did quit. However, as she was the most opinionated and the other three trainees often fed off her comments, I figured this could only make training a little bit easier.
Things seemed to improve for a few hours, but by lunch time the other three were threatening to quit as well. They were dead set against trying anything I was teaching them. Tim had to intervene on a couple of occasions to keep them from a mutiny.
Nine years as a trainer and this was by far one of my most challenging engagements. By the end of the final day I had covered the material in full and the team started taking calls. They actually showed some promise when a few appointments were set. Unfortunately things deteriorated once I left. The team quickly became information givers and; the only time “appointment” was mentioned was if the customer brought it up. Often the staff would transfer the calls to a salesperson which resulted in only more information being given and no appointments being set.
The Phone Ninjas staff monitored and coached calls for a month and no progress was being made. Tim and I met at Digital Dealer 10 to discuss options. One option was to terminate the BDC staff and focus on training the sales staff. Tim and I both viewed this as a last resort since so much time and money had been invested in the BDC. Tim asked if I would have one last heart to heart with the team to see if we could salvage the BDC. So I arranged a conference call with the team and proceeded to tell them that it was time for action or they would all be looking for jobs in a tough economy. They all agreed jobs were tough to come by in Granger, Iowa. There was no sugar coating it and, they would either deliver or be gone within 30 days. Tim was 100% behind this decision and had the same conversation with the team. Tim had made the right decision.
During the conference call one of the team members asked if she could have a private conversation with me. I agreed and asked her to call me later that day where she proceeded to inform me that she wanted to adapt and that she needed this job badly. She also said that she thought one of the team members was sabotaging the success of the department. I conducted a second interview with another team member and this concern was reinforced when the same message was echoed. I tried to talk with the person in question, but she did not want to talk. I suspected they were right and closely monitored their progress. Sure enough their claims became legitimate and Tim decided to part ways with the person in question.
Tim quickly replaced her with a new candidate and we were off and running again. We decided to do a few rounds of phone role play over the next month to get the team back on track. Progress was being made when we noticed coaching scores improve. Each month they progressed and became more confident as demonstrated in the scoring chart below.
Today I am happy to say they are the highest scoring dealer ever on our coaching program. In July they achieved the highest monthly average ever achieved with an average score of 3.47 on a scale of 0-4 across 20 coached calls. Only a small handful of dealers ever achieve an average score over 3.0 by month’s end. As of the completion of this article, this dealership has managed to achieve more with an average score of 3.82.
In preparation for this article I asked Tim a series of questions to help those of you who may be contemplating installation of a BDC.
Jerry Thibeau: What made you decide to go the BDC route?
Tim Hommer: Two members of my staff and I went to Digital Dealer 9 in Las Vegas in October 2010 looking for an upgrade to our CRM. Each of us decided it would be best if we each went to different sessions and; I went to one titled BDC on a beer budget. This intrigued me since I had been floating the idea around about doing a BDC with our current receptionist. Every night the three of us would eat and discuss what we wanted to bring home. The last day I went to a session where we listened to phone calls from different stores and they were mostly bad. One thing I remember was a story about calling Southwest airlines where a real person who is trained to help you answers the phone. “I can help you with that” was the phrase that stuck with me and I wanted that to be our motto at Granger Motors. We picked out three CRM’s for further investigation and in the end decided on Vin Solutions. I had decided that we were also going to go with a BDC solution because our sales staff was inefficient on the telephone.
Jerry Thibeau: How did you go about choosing the people to staff your BDC?
Tim Hommer: Not being a large store with megabucks to spend on a BDC we decided to use our current receptionist staff. We had our general receptionist, a part time receptionist and a full time service receptionist. We decided to add a fourth person to the mix in case one didn’t work out. Once the team was complete we had only added about 30 hours per week in payroll and two more people to our insurance rolls.
Jerry Thibeau: What were your thoughts after being operational for a month?
Tim Hommer: That I had the wrong people in place and this was not going to work out. I could not get them to follow a script. I called you and we decided to formulate a game plan at Digital Dealer 10.
Jerry Thibeau: What would you say was the transformational moment that turned it all around?
Tim Hommer: When the staff was informed that the BDC would be closed if progress wasn’t made. The second round of individual training was taken more seriously.
Jerry Thibeau: How would you rate the effectiveness of your BDC now?
Tim Hommer: They are doing a great job on phone-ups, but we still have some room for improvement. In July we appointed 79 phone shoppers. 31 of those customers showed for an appointment and we sold 12.
Jerry Thibeau: What were they before you started your BDC?
Tim Homer: We had no way of tracking prior to the BDC or Vin Solutions.
Jerry Thibeau: If you had it all over to do again, what would you do differently?
Tim Hommer: I would not change a thing. The first couple of months were very difficult, but perseverance paid off. Our dealership would not be where we are today without Vin Solutions, Joe Webb and the Phone Ninja, Jerry Thibeau.
Jerry Thibeau: Do you have any future plans for your BDC?
Tim Hommer: We plan to expand the scope of the BDC over the next year to start being more pro active with our customer base on outbound calls. We would also like to start surveying our customers so that we may strive for excellence in customer service. END
I would like to address the low show ratio Granger Motors is experiencing. When dealers become more proficient at setting appointments, they generally draw people in from a wider radius resulting in a lower show ratio since people typically do not drive the longer distances. Even taking the distance factor into consideration, the show ratio is still lower than it should be. Our goal at Phone Ninjas is to continue coaching the staff to make the appointment sooner than later, since appointments made sooner have a higher show ratio. Joe Webb from Dealer Knows Consulting has recently altered the action plans within the CRM system to include management confirmation calls, appointment reminders, and missed appointment follow-up calls. A combination of these three actions will help increase the show ratio. To learn more about the management confirmation calls and missed appointment calls, please visit our phone scripts under “Ninja Tools”.
The real key to this dealerships success was when Tim decided to explore the world outside of Granger Motors by attending Digital Dealer 9. Tim was introduced to new concepts and technologies that have changed the way dealers sell cars. Digital Dealer 11 will kick off on the 5th of October 2011 and conclude on the 7th. If you like mediocrity and status quo, then stay home. If you are ready for take your dealership to the next level, then stop what you’re doing and make your reservations today! This isn’t a sales pitch for DD11, this is my attempt to help you become better at what you do. The quickest way to become an old dog is to stop learning new tricks! The automotive industry is filled with innovation and it’s time to see the forest through the trees, just as Tim did one year ago.