A checklist of outlawed phrases


We’re now in our peak months of selling. While industry sales figures are mixed and somewhat below expectation because of the lousy spring weather in the Midwest, our recovery continues to move forward with increased activity at the dealership level.

Likely, things are even hectic around the dealership right now and that can cause anyone on our team to make a mistake that, in just a matter of seconds, can lose a prospect or customer.

While the Telephone Doctor specializes in online and phone customer service training, here’s a checklist of five words or expressions that should be banned forever in every dealership:

Banned word or phrase No. 1: The word “no” at the beginning of any sentence. It doesn’t matter what the customer wants, using this word to respond will be taken by the customer in only one way — rejection. Even if “no” is the proper answer, it can be turned into a positive by saying: “We not able to do exactly that, but we can do the following for you.”

No. 2: “I don’t know.” These words should never be uttered. If you don’t know, tell the customer you’ll find out. Try this: “Gee, that’s a good question (or serious situation) and I’m going to check and find out about it for you.” Let’s face it, there usually isn’t a thing any employee can’t find out about or at least get the right person on it. So “I don’t know” should never be heard.

No. 3: “We can’t do that.” If you really want to steam a customer, this one will do it. After all, the customer comes believing you can or should do it. “We can find a way” should be the prevailing attitude of all team members. Try this: “Boy, that’s a tough one. Let me see what we can do for you.” Then, find an alternative solution that can make the customer happy.

No. 4: “You will have to.” Big mistake. The only thing a customer or caller has to do is die and pay taxes (and it seems a lot more of the latter these days). Moreover, customers don’t like being told they “have to” in order to solve a problem they’re thinking you should solve. So, instead, use these carefully chosen suggestions for openers: “Here’s how we can help you with that” or “the next time that happens, here’s what we recommend you do.”

No. 5: “Hang on a second, I’ll be right back.” If you’ve ever said that to a caller, you’ve probably lied. Besides, most customers immediately think you’re giving them the standard, meaningless “on hold” bull. Why not just tell the truth? Like this: “It might take me several minutes to get the right information for you. Are you able to hold while I check?” If it takes more than three minutes or so, check back with the customer and say: “I’m still working on it, can you stay with me a little longer?” If the customer cannot, get their phone number and promise to call back shortly. And, of course, call back shortly.

It doesn’t take much effort to memorize the best ways to respond to a customer or prospect. The truth is that the power to keep all situations under control — to please customers or at least keep them from boiling over — is on the tongue of everyone on the dealership team and there’s no better time to re-emphasize it than now, when things are good.


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