Effective Call Handling for Marine Dealers 
By: Michael Markette


Which do you enjoy more? Your call answered by a human or by a machine?  The best phone process a dealer can deploy is live answer by a subject matter expert that can help the caller. This requires a highly trained business development center (BDC) and these come with a hefty price tag. 90% of all marine dealers that deploy a live answer process also quickly transfer the call. Customer feedback suggests that customers have the same satisfaction level with live answer and transfer as they do with phone trees, also called IVRs. So what is the one best practice for the process you use in your dealership?


Live answer and transfer adopters need to be keen to how the caller inquires about the boat or service they are calling about. If the caller asks for a person then they clearly have a relationship with your store and if the call is mishandled, e.g. transferred to voicemail or left on hold, it is likely they will call back or email. If the caller asks for “sales” or “service” they probably have a relationship with your store. The small select group of calls your receptionist handles that asks for about a specific boat for sale, e.g. “Hi, I’m calling about the 2015 Cobalt I see on you website, stock number 123…” this caller is not familiar with your store and has likely never called before. Train your receptionist to log all of these calls, if not every call. Warm transfer these callers and keep their hold time to 30 seconds or less before checking in. 75% of callers will stay on the line 3 minutes if you check in every 30 seconds. This best practice awards your store the benefit of a BDC to your new customers without the expense.


Phone trees or IVRs should be reduced to no more than 3 options with a 4th catch-all. Callers can only remember 3-4 options and hence abandonment rates on brief IVRs are low. The exception is a multi-branched phone tree where the first step is to choose their preferred store location. Use you data to determine which options to list in the 1-3 spots and which go into the 4th catch-all spot. You should list your options in the order of popularity, which is likely to be service as your first choice. When you place sales 2nd, 95% of calls to that line are actually for sales whereas if Sales is first, only 50% of calls are actually for sales. This approach to phone tree management improves the callers experience, increases connectivity rates and it increases your data’s accuracy. 


Still stuck on human versus machine for your call routing. Are humans always better? Personal assistants are coming to dealerships everywhere. Voice rich, contextual machines. While most people claim they want to talk to a human over a machine- Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and of course Apple are all changing the game. They are in fact training our callers. The next marine customer expectation will be to speak with a digital assistant not a limited human being.


Editor’s Note: The Marine Dealer Conference & Expo will take place December 10-13, 2017 in Orlando, Fla. If you find value in this blog post, just think of the value you could receive at MDCE.

Get registered here.

Copyright 2018 by Marine Retailers Association of the Americas