Scripted Service

Nov. 11, 2021

Developing an effective phone script can help your shop make the best possible first impression.

Everyone at some point or another has experienced an awkward phone call. Whether it’s an uncomfortable silence, a trip over some of your words or just an unpleasant person at the other end, conversations over the phone can be excruciating.

Because of that, making sure you and your team have a strong phone presence is crucial as a business owner. An employee answering the phone is the first point of contact many customers will have with your shop. Making sure your shop makes a positive first impression could mean the difference between getting customers’ business or seeing them choose a competitor. 

“Words matter. What you say matters. There are things you can do that will turn a customer away, there are things you can do that will get somebody on the phone to actually tell other people not to go with you,” says Jeremiah Wilson, CEO of Convirza, a call tracking and analytics company.

Wilson says even the most basic of scripts can help make customers feel more comfortable when engaging with an employee over the phone, avoid awkward interactions and make sure your shop is putting its best foot forward.

Cool, Casual Conversation

Corrine Hudson has run Kwik Kar Marsh, a 10-bay, full-service shop in Carrollton, Texas, for about five years. 

In the half-decade she’s spent learning the ropes and optimizing her shop, she says training her employees to engage with customers over the phone as if they were standing in the waiting room of her shop has proven to be one of the most important skills she passes on.

“You need to still act as if that person is in front of you. Otherwise, it's very easy to lose your customer's trust. Communication is 70 percent body language and 30 percent vocal. When you answer the phone, you just need to be upbeat,” Hudson says. “If you aren't, then you don't have that credibility over the phone. You don't have the body language along with it to gain their trust and their credibility.”

Wilson says people can detect if someone is reading off a script fairly easily, which is why managers have to dedicate time not only to making sure that an employee knows what to say when they answer the phone, but also how to say it.

“Obviously if you're selling a car, you're going to have a different script than when selling an oil change, but it's got to be customer service-focused,” he says. “Any script that you come up with has to address the basics of customer service. Do they know we care? Do they know that we want their business? Do they know that they can trust us? Do they know that we put the energy and effort into what we do?”

Having a concise script can provide front desk employees with a jumping-off point that ensures each customer is greeted the same way, which provides a more uniform and predictable customer service experience. It also helps employees keep track of the key points they need to bring up so they’re not reading off a physical script as they talk to a customer. 

Wilson says being personable and personal by asking for the customer’s name, as well as being positive by addressing their questions in a direct and friendly manner, can instantly set your shop apart and make customers feel that they are being taken care of adequately. 

Time to Improvise

However, once employees get past the initial greeting, scripts don’t provide much assistance in dealing with individual customers and can actually prove to be a distraction that trips up the front desk workers. 

A script doesn’t have to be a line-for-line breakdown of an entire conversation. Instead, it can be an outline of information that an employee can use to help better address questions and direct a customer’s call to the correct department or service.

Having a uniform, scripted greeting and initial request for information from a customer can get a team member started, but having word-for-word scripts much beyond that point really only hamper the customer service experience. 

“You have to let the customer speak,” Hudson says. “You have to actively listen, know your product and prioritize what they need. At some point, we cannot have something that's too scripted because there are too many variables with some of the issues that we encounter when customers call, especially when they're talking to a service advisor.”

Hudson says she trains her employees who answer the phone in not only what to say, but in how to say it, too.

“We teach our team members about recognizing different personalities,” she says. “For some, it’s knowing when to just be quick, be factual and be done as quickly as possible. Some of those customers, though, really like to talk to you about their cars. Some of the training that we've given our employees is geared to help with customer service.” 

Having a solid understanding of what the customer might be calling about and being able to answer most general questions that come up is also key in establishing good customer service.

Hudson’s shop does a complete “360 inspection” of each car that comes in, which helps her staff answer questions or point out less prominent issues to the customer.

Most importantly though, Hudson says, is not trying to make up an answer when a customer asks an unexpected question. 

“Saying the wrong things or quoting the wrong information (can’t happen),” she says. “Just admitting that you don't know about something and having full transparency to go, talk about it, research it and then call them back.” 

Stick With It

Wilson says there are some scripts that are inherently more effective than others, but for the most part he says the issue he sees the most isn’t with the script itself. Instead, he says it’s the lack of consistency in using those scripts.

A script should be as important as a dress code, according to Wilson. It’s the first point of contact with many customers for your business, and it’s the first chance you get to make sure you’re selling yourself and your services well. 

And, if done poorly, it may be the only chance you get.

“So you want to know what to say and what not to say, and make sure you know how to teach your people how to do it.” Wilson says. “Have pride in that. Every one of those are things that must be conveyed at the highest level to get the best results.”