This is the first in the "Full-On Grumpy" series of blog post – stuff that raises my blood pressure when I listen to shop calls. So first things first – answer the phone!
It never ceases to amaze me that even at good shops service writers feel no urgency to answer the phone. It may ring 3-4-5 times before they pick it up. Really?! How about picking it up on the second ring - do you have something more important to do than talking to customers?
Worse yet, sometimes service writers do not answer the phone at all: " I had a customer standing in front of me, so I couldn't just abandon him and answer the phone..." Really?! You couldn't excuse yourself for 10 seconds, write down caller's name and phone number, and come back to helping the customer in front of you? Even those of us who are on the impatient side will grant you 10-15 seconds to handle an incoming call.
"Well, we have voicemail..." – yeah, I know. About 80% of callers sent to voicemail leave no message. We are a "I need it now" society – if I can't talk to you now, I will call the next shop on the list. While your existing customers might give you a second chance, new customers will go elsewhere – and why shouldn't they? Their only experience with your shop has been to be shunted off to voicemail – sure made them feel special.
As the owner, you know that phone is your most important shop tool – if the customers can't get through to make an appointment, all the other tools are useless. Even if you are certain that your service writers do the right thing, I recommend listening to a random selection of incoming calls at your shop from time to time – if your service writers truly are perfect, it's an opportunity to reward them for a job well done.