Although cellular and cordless telephones are extremely beneficial to running any business, they should be used carefully and discretely.
Contrary to what some managers and workers seem to think, high-tech doesn't preclude or override common courtesies.
In my travels, I'm finding workers in all kinds of tire dealerships and service shops often seem unaware of the negative impact they make due to careless use of the modern communication marvels. Remember that we are in a retail service business. The nature of this business is that the telephone often provides our first contact with potential customers.
As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression-via phone or in person.
I also question some service managers' policies-or lack thereof-regarding technicians using cellular phones in the service bays.
The first issue owners and managers should consider is noise interfering with a phone conversation. It used to be that many bosses located one or more telephones in the service department specifically so a manager or the technicians could converse with customers with little or no interruptions from normal shop noise.
But since the advent of cordless phones, many service personnel seem to have taken a leave of their senses.
They seem to think that the cordless technology justifies them taking a call and carrying the phone with them, going about whatever they were already doing back in the bays. The new attitude seems to be, ``I'll take a call anywhere, anytime.'' The same is true for cell phones.
Each and every call should be treated professionally. This means the caller should not have to struggle to hear you because air tools or hammers are being used nearby.
What's more, callers shouldn't have to overhear the techs near you yelling at each other or swearing when a part won't come off.
Make it shop policy to acknowl-edge the call and then politely tell the caller that you are walking to a quiet area so you can hear each other without screaming. I'm convinced that a typical caller would be grateful for this courtesy.
The second thing a boss should watch for is good reception. Suppose the atmosphere around you is fairly quiet at the moment. What's the point in taking a call on a cordless phone if the reception where you are standing is poor? Problems such as fade-out, buzzing or static and cross talk from other phone lines can be extremely irritating and distracting to the caller. Investing in a premium-quality cordless phone probably is the easiest way to eliminate or minimize these problems.
Improve reliability by replacing cordless phone batteries regularly. There's nothing more aggravating to an anxious customer than a service manager exclaiming, ``Oh, I'm losing you 'cause the battery's going dead.''
But regardless, workers should be trained to instinctively excuse themselves whenever a noise or reception problem occurs. Don't waste the caller's time wandering around the property trying to find a quiet spot with decent reception-head inside! For example, simply say: ``Please excuse me for a few seconds, Mr. Customer, while I walk inside and grab our regular phone.''
If you habitually answer a cordless phone out in the service department and the environment isn't conducive to a polite, professional conversation, jot down the person's number and call them back immediately on an inside line.
Already, experience is teaching me that some bosses need to implement and enforce rules on cellular phone usage out in the shop.
Too many techs I see seem to think that just because they have a cell phone, they've got to use it. Then they try to continue working while gabbing on the phone.
Even if a worker frees up his or her hands by using a cell phone headset, the fact remains that carrying on a conversation is a major distraction, period-and especially when complicated service or diagnostic work is involved.
The typical cell call back in the shop is a personal call, and the fact is too many personal calls hamper productivity and efficiency.