Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maximizing Parts In-Coming Phone Calls

Have you ever wondered how many phone calls are coming in to the dealership Parts Department on a daily basis? How many of these calls actually end up in parts sales?

Are we "maximizing" our opportunities by measuring our "Parts Phone Call Closing Ratios?" Lastly, are the Parts Counter people "trained" to sell parts, or are they just "order takers"?

These are just a few of the questions I had to ask myself on a recent dealer visit when the owner asked me to find new ways to increase his overall parts sales and gross. I decided to get "back to basics" on just where we could improve on opportunities that might go unnoticed.

I realized that the biggest opportunity that most dealerships miss in the Parts Department is "In Coming Parts Phone Calls". 

After performing a "Mystery Phone Shop" of the Parts Counter Staff I noticed that not only are the people answering the phone not trained in "how to" answer the phone, but they never asked me for the sale!

I do know that it's not "New News" and  we have all heard the infamous "Parts Hold" scenario, but there is a proper way to answer the phone, even if the in coming caller has to be placed "on hold" for a moment. 

The interesting thing about calls to the Parts Department versus calls coming in to the rest of the dealership is, in most cases, it's the ONLY department that doesn't have a "back up" person like a receptionist to answer these calls when they are busy!

They are EXPECTED to answer the phones, take care of the technician counter, look up parts, prepare estimates and so on.

The problem is that most other people in the dealership seem to think they stand around most of the day and are not being productive, but I can assure you that they have many, many moments during the day when they are expected to multitask.

So where is all of this leading to and what are the answers to the questions asked in the beginning?

First of all, we have to train our staff to answer the phones properly with a Phone Script that includes not only a friendly greeting or how to properly ask a customer if they wouldn't mind being placed "on hold" for a moment, it must contain specific questions that will help to measure the "Sales Closing Ratio" for proper follow up as well as building "Parts Sales Incentives".

Secondly, we already know that most Parts Counter people keep a "note pad" close to where the work, near the phone to write information down when the phone rings, or maybe to write down information from technicians or customers at the counter.

We are simply going to create a "Scripted Note Pad" for the Parts Counter Person that will provide a friendly greeting reminder and specific questions to ask that will give us all the information we need to follow up with customers and measure our "Sales Closing Ratios".

Here are some specific items that should be included in your Parts Counter Person's "Scripted Note Pad":

  • Friendly Greeting with Introduction 
  • Specific Friendly Greeting for Customers who are put "On Hold"
  • "How Can I Help You?"
  • Customer Phone Number (for follow up)
  • Vehicle Information (Year,Make, Model, Vehicle Identification Number, etc.)
  • Part(s) Requested? Y/N
  • Parts In Stock? Y/N    If Not, Parts Ordered? Y/N
  • Customer Installing Part(s)? Y/N (Possible Call Transfer to Service)
  • Price Quoted? Y/N
  • Discount Given? Y/N (Offered in Lieu of Losing the Sale) 
  • Sold Part(s) Y/N
  • If Part(s) Sold, include Invoice Number
  • If Part(s) NOT Sold, Give Reason (i.e. cost, availability, estimate, etc.)
  • Close The Sale ("Thanks for Calling, My Name Is ___________)
The results of the implementation of this Parts Counter Person "Scripted Note Pad" were astounding! We created a simple excel reporting system to measure the "Closing Ratio" of these in coming calls with the "Scripted Note Pads".

Each Counter Person was required to turn in their "Scripted Note Pads" at the end of  each day for follow up. The Parts Manager reviewed all the "Scripted Note Pads" and actually phoned customers who had elected not to purchase for the reasons noted. Lo and Behold, the Parts Manager was able to "capture" sales that would have gone unrealized!

Customers were AMAZED that the Parts Manager was actually calling them back to follow up, asking why they didn't purchase. One customer in particular called for prices on brake pads and did not purchase because they were "price shopping" and didn't know the difference between the "factory" brake pads versus the lesser expensive economy brake pads.

The customer was actually a Service Customer that owned two vehicles purchased AND serviced at the facility! The Parts Manager actually "sold the service appointment" to the customer and the vehicle was serviced the next day with the "factory" brake pads at the dealership!

I believe that we need to "re-think" our philosophy on parts sold over the phone, or our "over the counter" parts sales. In many cases, I have found that "Counter Retail Sales" have traditionally been a "high gross, low sales" category on the dealers' financial statement.

Are we really "maximizing" our "over the counter" Parts Sales opportunities? Is your Parts Counter Staff  "trained" to sell?

In most dealerships, the "over the counter" retail sales average less that $10,000.00 per month, with an average gross retention of 38% - 42%. With that said, I wondered if we focused MORE on this opportunity and tracked the "Closing Ratios" of these in coming parts calls, even if we did have to give up a little gross percentage.

Would I rather have 40% of $10,000.00 or maybe 30% of $40,000.00? Gross pays the bills, but it seems that we get caught up on the "NORM" with percentages and low counter sales instead of being competitive, training "ALL" our sales staff and retaining our customer base. 

Dave Piecuch is the Vice President of Automotive Consultants Group Inc. and is the Head Coach for Smart PartsTM.  Dave can be reached at Cell 786-521-1720 or E-mail at Vist our Website at