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Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your MVP. Training, tools, and incentives will help your receptionist succeed, so your dealership can succeed.

by Kirstie Thomas

When you consider the most valuable player at your dealership, who comes to mind? The dealer? The GM? The top-performing salesperson? What if I told you it’s your receptionist? Yep, the person who is probably at the low-end of your pay scale. They are potentially working part-time, and maybe even new to the job, and you might even have a hard time remembering his or her name. If this is true, then why is your receptionist so important?

The receptionist is the first person a customer sees when they walk through your doors, and the first person they speak with when they pick up the phone to call your store. Those are pivotal moments that can make or break your success.

We’ve all had the experience of encountering a surly receptionist. Did it make you want to visit that business again? How about when you call a company, and the receptionist sends you to the wrong extension? Or left you to hang on hold purgatory? Did you give that business a second chance?

Most people won’t. Especially if it happens at a dealership. They’ll simply move on to the next dealer on their Google search.

A poorly trained, ill-equipped, or unmotivated receptionist can cost you a lot of business. Don’t let that happen at your store.

Prioritize Proper Phone Skills Training

Take the time to create a list of instructions with a protocol for answering phones and handling walk-in customers. Assign a person in your dealership to job-train at the receptionist desk for at least a day to make sure customer interactions are going well.

Ensure the receptionist knows how to advance a lead. For example, a customer calls for dealership hours. The receptionist relays sales hours, but what if the customer was calling for service? Now, the service department is closed when the customer expects it to be open. That’s frustrating and could cost you a repair order. Train your receptionist to ask the questions that count.

The same applies when a call comes in for sales. The receptionist should ask questions about the vehicle of interest, narrow down exactly what information the customer is requesting, and then communicate those details to an available salesperson before transferring the call.

Set Them Up to Succeed

That leads to my next point: make sure the receptionist has the tools needed for success. This includes an updated phone list and necessary information about your dealership, including hours of operation.

The blame for unanswered phones can’t be put on the shoulders of the receptionist if extensions are outdated and mailboxes are full. You may even want to consider implementing a phone health system that automatically alerts you when calls don’t connect. You can then circle back with the receptionist and correct problems before they become emergencies.

The same principle of giving the receptionist the right tools applies to unanswered calls in the service drive. For example, I worked with a dealership where the receptionist and advisers were pointing fingers, blaming each other for missed calls. The receptionist couldn’t see the advisers from her desk, so she didn’t know if anyone was available before transferring calls.

The dealer installed closed-circuit cameras over the advisers’ desks. The receptionist could then see who was available. And the advisers knew they were on camera. So, suddenly, those ringing phones were answered.

Motivate with Bonuses

Finally, consider putting a bonus plan in place for your receptionist. Money is a great motivator that can also breed a better attitude and loyalty. Your receptionist may stay on the job longer, reducing employee churn that saps resources and leads to poor customer relations.

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your MVP. Training, tools, and incentives will help your receptionist succeed, so your dealership can succeed.

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