Phone Call Best Practices For Dealership Parts Departments

If you’re in a dealership parts department, you’re selling parts online, and you’re wondering how you can grow sales (and get profitable) we invite you to consider the telephone! Your parts department probably isn’t doing a great job on the phone (we rarely encounter that), and even if they are there are some things they can do to improve.

And yes, it is counterintuitive to focus on phone calls when talking about growing ecommerce, but it works.

The Phone Is Important in Parts Ecommerce

Most customers don’t know parts. As a result:

  • Customers often have trouble finding the right part for their vehicle, or
  • Customers find the right part, but they’re not 100% sure and want someone to confirm, or
  • Customers find the right part but aren’t comfortable buying from your website without calling first, or
  • Customers find the right part and are comfortable, but want to ask a question before they order because it’s a lot of money…

etc. and so on

Whatever the reason, many parts ecommerce customers want to call before they buy. If your parts department staff doesn’t consider the phone an ecommerce selling tool, today’s the day to let them know.

Parts Ecommerce Phone Call Best Practices

A lot of the info below is obvious. We’re mentioning it here because

  1. A LOT of parts counter staff don’t do these things when they answer the phone AND
  2. Most parts staff are never taught these things

We suggest printing this article out and having everyone read it, and then asking staff in other departments (salespeople are never doing anything, LOL) to call from an outside line and test your team.

Greet The Customer Before Getting Down To Business

Many parts counter personnel are accustomed to talking to local repair or body shops, so they answer the phone “PARTS” or “PARTS COUNTER,” because that’s good enough for commercial buyers. But if you’re talking to customers, it’s off-putting and rude.

Instead, answer the phone by stating “company name parts department, this is [your name].'” and then ask, “How may I help you?” or “What can I do for you?” or whatever feels comfortable.

Also, speak slowly when you greet the customer. This way they have time to think before they speak. Most of the people calling have only bought parts a few times – they don’t know what to say and don’t want to look stupid. So, make it easy for them by being friendly and going slow.

Get The VIN If You Can, But Don’t Make It A Pain Point Right Away

After the customer explains what they need, you want to ask them if they have their vehicle’s VIN number handy. If they don’t, it’s OK to come back to this question again later – just explain that the VIN is best for fitment accuracy, but that you can look up the part by year, make, and model.

By explaining why you need the VIN – that it will save the customer time and make sure they get the right part – you’ll probably get them to dig it up. If you make it a confrontation, they’ll probably just hang up and call another parts department.

Before Quoting A Price, Confirm The Part Is In Stock

If the part is in stock: Tell the customer the part is in stock and then give them the price. Then, follow up with a message that will encourage the customer to act now, such as: “If you order within the next two hours, your order should ship today.” or “If you order now, I’ll make sure the order goes out as soon as possible.” This creates urgency for the customer and sounds like you’re offering to do something nice for the customer.

If the part is out of stock: Many parts counter people assume customers won’t buy out of stock parts. This is false. Consumers buy out of stock parts all the time! The trick is to explain why the part is out of stock, and then why the customer should let you sell them the part.

Check to see how long the part will take to arrive. If the delay is only a day or two, it’s not worth mentioning that to the customer. You can just quote the price and explain they should have the part in the next few days.

If the delay is longer than a few days but less than two weeks, be sure to explain that the part is a special order part and give them a price along with an arrival estimate. It’s better to say “special order” than “out of stock,” because customers may be annoyed about the fact you’re advertising the part as in-stock.

If the delay is more than two weeks – or unknown – you need to explain that:

  • The part is on national backorder, so no one has it in stock
  • Your company sells a lot of parts, and if you order the part for the customer, your company will get it sooner than others
  • If the customer orders with you, they can always cancel if they find it elsewhere first…but you’re pretty sure you’ll have it for them before anyone

While the reality is that dealerships get parts when they get them, the customer doesn’t know that. A concrete explanation can often help the customer make a decision.

NOTE: Customers who call looking for a part that’s on backorder probably already know the part is on backorder. They’re calling around trying to find it. Save them some time and explain that you’ll get it for them as soon as anyone.

Don’t Make People Hold Longer Than A Minute or Two

You’ll most likely place the customer on hold while you check on parts. Do your best to keep it under a minute. If you need more time, check back in on the call to let them know you are still working.

Or, even better, learn to ask questions that chew up time but that you don’t really need to listen to closely. Examples include:

  • Other than needing to replace the [part], how do you like your [model]?
  • How long have you had your [model]?
  • Has the [part] been giving your trouble for a while, or did it break all of the sudden?
  • Are you going to be fixing this yourself or having a shop put it on?

etc. Most of the time, the answers to these questions don’t matter, but they eat up time.

If The Customer Won’t Buy On The Phone (Or If You’re Not Allowed To Collect Credit Card Info On The Phone), Send Them An Email Quote

If the customer wants to order the part but you can’t take their credit card info – or if they’re not quite ready to buy but you want to make it easy for them – offer to email them a quote. You can explain that the quote will include a link that goes straight to the checkout and includes the exact part they need. If they say yes, email them a quote mentioning your name and that you spoke on the phone, repeat the vehicle info they gave you back to them, and then add the link to the part. Try and do it while you’re on the phone with them and/or as soon as you hang up.

Ask If You Can Help Further Before Wrapping Up The Call

When you’re dealing with a commercial parts buyer, you probably don’t need to say, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” before hanging up. But with a consumer, it’s expected. And thanking them for calling is a good idea, too.

Summing Up

Phone orders are a big source of revenue for all our OEM parts clients. Part of the reason is that we coach our clients on all of the things we mention here in this article and they sell more parts as a result.

If you’re a parts manager with an OEM parts ecommerce store that needs to grow, here’s what you need to do:

  • Get your team excited about answering the phone
  • Have them answer with a friendly greeting
  • Have them ask for the VIN, but don’t make it a big deal
  • Have them confirm stock before quoting a price
  • Make sure they ask for the sale
  • Have them take credit card info over the phone or send an email quote with a checkout link

Most parts counter staff has no interest in answering the phone all day long, but the reality is that it can make them a lot of money. Most of the really big orders come in by phone – consumers usually won’t order something expensive like a replacement ECM or ABS module without calling first.

Those types of calls put money in your team’s pockets, and help your store grow too.

Good luck!

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