5 Tips for Turning Callers into Customers

Published by Naseem Muaddi on February 7th, 2012

It sounds silly to think that we may need help talking on the phone, but you’d be surprised by how often costly mistakes are made. When it comes to selling a job, a simple slip of the tongue can cost you money.

Below are five simple tips for effectively communicating with customers over the phone.

Even if you don’t need help in this department, maybe some of your coworkers or employees do – so feel free to forward this article along.

1. Start with a professional greeting

Never answer the phone just by saying “hello”. A professional greeting – like “Jim’s Auto Upholstery. This is Jim, how may I help you?” – not only ensures your customers that they’ve dialed the correct number, but also conveys a sense of professionalism.

2. Educate your customers  

Many customers think that jobs are much simpler than they actually are – which is why some act shocked when they hear our prices. However, explaining the steps you’ll need to take in order to carry out a service can help justify the cost.

From personal experience, I know that customers appreciate the little bit of knowledge that we share with them. It makes them feel confident that we know what we’re doing and that our prices are fair.

3. Watch your tone

Be aware that your tone of voice is just as important as the words you speak.

Being sarcastic or condescending to customers while attempting to educate them can be offensive. Answer their questions – no matter how silly they may be – politely and professionally.

Difficult customers are especially deserving of professional treatment. After all, they’re the ones most likely to go about ruining your reputation.

4. Provide incentives for callers to come in

Most callers are looking for a quick price quote. But aside from headliners, auto upholstery work is too specialized to give estimates over the phone. How many times have you heard this: “I’m looking to get a full custom interior in my car. How much is that going to cost me?”

Don’t get duped into giving a price quote over the phone. When the car comes into your shop, it’ll most likely need a lot more work than what the customer let on – yet he’ll still try to hold you to the quote.

Instead, provide incentives for customers to bring their cars in. Tell them that you have samples of material for them to see and feel, and that you’d like to discuss the design process with them more in depth. If your in-person estimate is free, let them know.

This could only work to your advantage, as it’s much easier to sell a job in person than over the phone. So set that appointment!

5. Remember the facts

Don’t hang up before telling customers the vital facts they’ll need to come in for an estimate. These include your business hours, address and directions if necessary. If you scheduled an appointment for them to come in, confirm the date and time.

Also, remember to end just as professionally as you started: “Thanks for calling Jim’s Auto Upholstery. We hope to see you soon.”

Once the customer has arrived, it’s up to you to make the sale. Just remember that the hardest part is over. If they’re at your shop, they’re serious about having their car’s interior repaired.

What do you think? Have any tips to add? Or maybe you have a related story to tell? Share it in the comments section below.

Also, check out our article: 5 Ways to Handle Difficult Customers

5 Responses

  1. Steve McGee says:

    You make some really valid points. I think some guys forget when to switch off their normal “shop talk” and switch on their professional voice, especially if you don’t have a receptionist or secretary. I had an incident where I was engaged in heated debate with my coworker that was laced with expletives. During this the phone rang, so I answered it (nothing unusual), but the only thing was I didn’t change my tone. Long story short, I ended up apologizing to the customer who then came in and spent $500. The moral of the story is I could have easily lost out on a $500 sale just by my phone conversation.

    • Nadeem says:

      Thanks for sharing that Steve. It’s difficult in any situation to go from angry to pleasant – but sometimes the situation calls for it. It’s almost like being bipolar.

      Glad to hear you apologized and got the job. That was a real stand up thing you did.

  2. stitcher_guy says:

    Bravo to Point 4. That is the standard question I get at car shows and on the phone. I right off say that it helps to see the car (preferably in person, but digital pics will help), and to discuss the goals of the build. At car shows, when you have only a brief moment to answer, I tell them that every build is different, and depending on materials and amount of work it can run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for an interior. I keep two brag books with me at shows so I can usually find their kind of car with an interior to show as a reference point.

    It’s amazing to me how many shops (mechanic, paint/body, upholstery, what have you) answer with “What?” or “Yeah?” It immediately puts up a defensive wall with the customer thinking “wow, they sure don’t want to talk to me.” No matter who in the shop picks up the phone, it should be nice, courteous and “thank you for calling. How may I help you?”

    • Nadeem says:

      Exactly. A great tip that I recently learned (from Naseem no less) is to force yourself to smile while talking on the phone – you automatically sound nicer no matter what mood you’re in.

      I was skeptical at first, but hey it really works!

      Taking ‘Brag Books’ (I never heard them called that before) to car shows is also a great idea!

  3. Retired…Just An Input On Estimates , It May Be Better To Get A Fee For It Up Front Rather Than Give A Free One Which Is More Than Likely Will Take A Good Hour Of Your Time Which Is How Much Per Hour…If you Are Going To Give 3 Estimates In One Day With No Charge That’s Three Hours You Will Have To Make Up Where? On Another Customer. The Bottom Line Is There Always. If Need Be Tell the customer The Estimate Fee Comes Off The Price With The Job.

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