Everyone that calls your auto upholstery shop is a potential customer.
That’s why it’s important to always speak professionally on the phone — regardless of how busy (or annoyed) you might be.
A simple slip of the tongue or even an unkind tone can end up costing you money and even hurting your shop’s reputation.
Fortunately, that can be avoided by following these six simple tips:
1. Start with a professional greeting
Never answer a business call with a lone “hello.” Instead, try something like this: “Brady’s Auto Upholstery. This is Brady speaking. How may I help you?”
This type of greeting let’s potential customers know they dialed the correct number and are speaking with someone important. What’s more, it conveys professionalism.
2. Educate the customer
Many customers think that jobs are much easier than they actually are — which is why some act shocked when they hear our prices.
Rather than get defensive, explain the steps you’ll need to take to complete the service. This will put them at ease and 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 seem — 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 them to visit
Lots of callers are just looking for a quick price quote. But most auto upholstery work is too specialized to give quotes over the phone.
Don’t get duped into giving blind quotes. 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 fabric samples for them to see and feel, and that you’d like to discuss design ideas in more detail. If your in-person quote 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.
5. Schedule an appointment
Once you provided an incentive for customers to visit, go ahead and set an appointment.
“Stop by anytime before 6pm” is no good because it’s non-committal. It makes potential customers feel like they’re not letting anyone down by not showing up.
Customers are more likely to visit if you actually set a date and time.
“Okay Frank, we’ll see you on Tuesday at 3pm.” Doesn’t that seem more firm?
Most customers, not wanting to be jerks, will actually keep the appointment.
6. End with a professional farewell
The way you end a call is just as important as how it starts.
Never end with a lone “goodbye” or “see you later.” Instead, try something like this: “Thanks for calling Brady’s Auto Upholstery. We hope to see you soon.”
This type of farewell reminds customers that you’re a true professional.
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.
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.
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?”
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!
Edward Munday says
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.
Very good Article, I have a young lady with fantastic phone skills, she does all of this, we also call every customer a few days after the job is completed for a follow-up. My customers love the follow-up call too.
Johnny Ritcheson says
I found that many times if it is a job that is going to take a longer time to complete I send customers progress pictures (if they want to receive them) it just takes a minute but puts most customers, especially remote customers, the ability to see ,witness and enjoy the shared experience. At the same time it builds clients, they talk to their friends.. I always liked what Paul Mcartney said” I go thru a day thinking to myself that i have three dollars in my pocket, helps to keep me hungry”. I agree, when your hungry ,you always remember that the customer pays the bills , I am much more inclined to answer phones with much more of a courtious voice, And take more time to help the customer decide to go with us regardless of price.