A good friend of mine recently shopped for a new car. He’s a pretty tech savvy person, but oddly enough, didn’t know much about the vehicle that he was thinking of buying. He said that he asked numerous questions of his salesperson regarding miles per gallon, safety features, and available options. Each time, the salesperson would try to find the answer on an iPad. My friend complained that he ended up leaving without ever getting a straight answer. He told me that he got the feeling that the salesperson was trying to sell him an iPad more than a car. In fact, the salesperson ended up showing him various apps, videos, and games that he liked that had nothing to do with selling cars. The salesperson rarely made eye contact, and struggled to get my friend’s name and email address entered into the iPad.
My friend went home, did his own research and ended up buying the new car over the Internet from the same dealership. After a few weeks went by, he forwarded me the barrage of emails that he was getting; both from the first “live” salesperson and from the Internet Manager. Since he knew I was involved in automotive technology, he asked me what had gone wrong in our industry. I thought back to the times when things were simple and a salesperson knew the product they were selling. They came onto the lot armed with three things; an “up card” to record the customer info, a fact book that had specs about the various models, and a list of what was in stock. The up card had 2-3 parts; the top copy went to the receptionist to enter into the computer and the bottom card was for the salesperson to keep. There was a single customer database and the receptionist made it her mission to eliminate duplicates and to keep the progress of the deal updated. In fact, when customers called, the receptionist would often tell the salesperson, “Tom Andrews, the guy who was looking at the red pickup last week is holding on line five.” I realize this might sound like utopia, but I remember the days. These highly trained and qualified receptionists were paid well and cared about their salespeople. The salespeople in return made sure the receptionist was well fed.
A true “sales receptionist” should be devoted to helping salespeople update their customer files and keeping the vehicle inventory database clean.
Today many phones are being answered by the office staff or by a receptionist that is doing office work. I realize that when cutting expenses, it is easy to look at this person as someone who has plenty of time, but I believe the receptionist position should work for the sales department, and cashiers should work for the service manager. These are your first and last customer contact people and they should be friendly and personable. When we look for office staff we want accuracy and strict conformity to policies. This type of person is normally a quart low on friendly and often right in the middle of balancing something when the phone rings. Not the type of person you want greeting customers and answering your phones. A true “sales receptionist” should be devoted to helping salespeople update their customer files and keeping the vehicle inventory database clean. These two items are related to their frontline position. They should also be on a career track to sell vehicles and should be learning your product. If you have technology that helps you find the answers you need about your products, teach the sales receptionist learn how to use it and be a resource for the sales department when customers ask the tough questions – or even better, have them teach your sales force. I’m sure that the iPads are being used by some salespeople to greatly enhance the sales process, but there will always be some talented salespeople that would be better off with some help.
Although I’m a true proponent of technology and one of the first to advocate change, there are some things that still need the human touch, and among those are the items closest to your customers. Send me an email if you’d like a job description of a sales receptionist.