Guest Post – 3 Tips To Owning The Phone at Your Dealership

phone trainingYou did it.  You executed a great marketing campaign.  You delivered the right message at the right time.  The shopper picks up the phone and dials.  Your friendly receptionist picks up!  The shopper is transferred to the sales department.  Why is it ringing over and over?  Why is no one answering?  Now a generic voicemail box is playing.  Well, at least we know the shopper will leave a message with their full name, phone number, email, VIN, and a clear objection to why they shouldn’t buy from you.…..right?

Nope.  They hang up.  Lost and gone forever.

Dealers have long realized the significant value of a phone call.  That realization rarely translates to proactive management of phone processes though.  Most dealers laugh when phone mismanagement or lack of simple phone skills are brought up in conversation.  That topic is an area considered “unfixable” or “just the way it is.”

It’s not difficult to see how we got to this point.  Phone calls are a step removed from management’s view.   Phone conversations happen constantly, unexpectedly, and often out of view of others.  Call tracking technology has helped bring clarity to this area but many dealers still go with the “It’s just the way it is” mentality.  It doesn’t have to be like that.  Below I offer three simple ideas that will shed light on your phone processes:


1.) Take 30 minutes to review your current phone processes.  I’m not talking about phone skills, but instead your basic phone setup.  Understand where your phone lines are pointed and to whom. If a phone call rings to the receptionist and is passed along to a particular department, test this department’s phone line.  Confirm what actually happens to calls after hours.

Review each voice mail box to ensure they are actually set up with a friendly message.  If you have multiple extensions for numerous employees, test the extensions and confirm they are published correctly across your marketing.  Call tracking providers should act as consultants in this review, don’t hesitate to ask them for guidance.


2.) Identify where callers are left stranded.  Remember my example phone call from earlier?  The receptionist answered quickly but that doesn’t mean the caller, who was eager to learn more, actually reached someone who could help them.  To some extent, dealers are using my Step 1 to make sure that calls hit the dealership.  That’s a good start but I assure you dozens of calls were left stranded at your store last month.

Generally, it’s because the red hot shopper asks for a specific sales representative who is unavailable.  Other times it’s hanging up after being left on hold or passed around the dealership.  You know the receptionist who only works weekends?  They may not know how to handle / transfer calls properly and many are left stranded.  If you use a call tracking provider, ask if they offer any sort of reporting data on what happens after the call is answered.


3.) Own The Phone with simple metrics.  Emphasize asking for the appointment on every call and confirming these appointment requests with a set date and time.  Put up reminders in your BDC, bullpen, or sales office.

Once you make an appointment, call them the day of for one final confirmation and commitment.  In a dealership I visited recently, I noticed sprinkled throughout their sales offices were small pieces of paper that read “Every Appointment has a Date and Time.”  Make the phone a priority. Own The Phone.


While horror stories of customer mistreatment and painfully poor phone skills make headlines, these are really the minority.  What doesn’t make headlines are the little things like ensuring proper phone set ups, connecting customers to quickly to a person who can help,  improving appointment request ratios, and confirming appointments.  It’s these little things that will help you Own The Phone.



By: Mike Haeg

Mike Haeg is the Director of Business Development for Century Interactive, a phone call analytics company based in Dallas, TX.  Century Interactive works with thousands of dealers across the US and Canada by measuring their marketing efforts and improving their communication with prospects.  If you’re interested in learning more or would simply like to chat, give Mike a call at 888-593-0830, email at, check out, or follow CI on Twitter @centinteractive.

Working both in the dealership and on the vendor side, I have spent the last 10 years of my life studying the car business. I love car dealers. I love blogs. I am The Dealer Geek.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Excellent post Ryan. I wanted to add a simple tip that I’ve seen used very successfully at dealerships and essentially in any sales environment. Regardless if the incoming calls are answered by an auto attendant or live receptionist, have all sales calls transferred to a hunt group. Program the phone system to ring multiple sales extensions concurrently. Educate sales people that the first to answer the phone get the lead. Guaranteed you won’t have abandoned calls again.
    You can enhance this by providing sales people with wireless handsets so they can receive calls while away from their desk.

  • Elise

    Hi there,

    I was wondering, these call tracking providers you speak of – got any examples?

  • Hi Elise!

    Wow….is this response tardy enough or what? I hope you get a notification of new comments on this thread!

    My company, Century Interactive, specializes in automotive call tracking. I would love to chat if you have any questions at all. No pressure, would love to help.