Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.   

Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE  Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).

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  Phone Skills?

(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 

How's your phone skills? Don't know? It's something we forget from time to time. I have been to many a shop management seminar in which phone skills are the first topic of discussion. Regardless, I hope your phone skills are better than the skills of one of my part's suppliers.

It all began when an employee asked if I could get him a price on a steering rack for his 1993 Ford Taurus SHO. Our employee had just installed an aftermarket rack a week prior and it was already leaking. Needless to say, he was ready to try a factory rack. I called the dealer that we normally purchase Ford parts from. As usual, I got the tape message that stated that "no one was in the parts department right now" the message went on advising me to "leave my name and number" so they could get back to me.

History has proven that after several years of hearing this message and then leaving mine, no one from that dealership has ever once taken the time to call me back. Now it was time to follow my regular little procedure to bypass their tape message. I called the dealership back and this time pressed "O" for the operator. When the office picked up, I asked for the part's department. As always, they promptly transferred me. After about 7-10 rings someone in parts answered the call. This was actually a surprise to me. A surprise, your wondering? Yes, it was. Often when this dealership's parts department is busy, they pick up the phone after the 5th or so ring and quickly hang it back up. About a year back I questioned a counter person at this dealership thinking it was a phone error on their switchboard. Unfortunately, the counter person advised me that his partner will pick up the handset and hang it back up to stop it from ringing when they're busy. Can you believe that? Can you imagine intentionally hanging up on your customers when you're too busy? Well, I always said this industry was crazy.  Perhaps it furthers that viewpoint.

Anyway, I was actually able to get a live person. The counter person picked up the phone and quickly said: "Parts, please hold" then I heard a tap as the phone hit the counter. As I stayed on the line listening to the shouting, horn blowing and background chatter at their dealership, I started to realize how chaotic everyday life is in the automotive service industry. I waited about 10 minutes when he finally picked up the phone and said: "Its 629.00 list and about 504.00 your cost." Then I said: "I think you have the wrong line. I have not told you what I want priced yet." Within 30 seconds of that statement I heard a click, then dead silence. When the dial tone finally sounded, I realized they had hung me up on yet again. I slammed the phone down, took a deep breath and dialed an alternate Ford dealer located a little farther away. Fortunately, that second dealership's parts department does not use a tape machine and never hangs up on me. Immediately someone in parts answered and I got my price quote within two minutes of the call.

Funny thing though. Not long after that incident one of the parts' department employees from the first dealership asked me if our shop had been "slow." I told him that things had been pretty normal and asked him why he thought our business might be slow. He mentioned that we have not been calling him much lately. 

And they wonder why? I thought he was kidding.

I guess I have never been a believer of tape machines in the parts or repair department during working hours. One of the import car dealers we frequent uses a tape machine in their service department during the day. They call me back, but only about half the time.

The moral of the story is: No tape machines in parts or service. Customers still want to talk to a live warm body. By all means, if you must use a tape machine during work hours, please remember to call your customers back.

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