Originally published in the June edition of Car Biz Magazine.

How effective have your “speed traps” been in stabilizing phone management at your dealership?

Let me clarify, have you attempted to set up a speed trap to catch your poorest performers on the phone or improve the ineffective phone skills habits of your team?

But, do you still have guys speeding through their outbound calls to hit call quota versus truly reconnecting with hot leads? Does your team only increase their amount of appointment requests after you drill them about the importance of inviting customers into the dealership in your morning meetings, but then find that appointment requests plummet after lunch?

Let me guess. You are flustered because you have tried many methods to enforce better phone performance but struggle because you can’t seem to make the slight improvements stick.

Do you wrap up your day knowing you should have listened to more calls but can’t find the time? Do you desperately want to establish a culture of phone accountability? Are you aware of the pressing need to convert more phone calls into firm appointments?

If you said yes to those questions, you have no need to be flustered. Changing phone behavior for the long term is more doable than you think.

The solution is simple. CRISP.

Before I break down CRISP, let’s take a step back. Why is it necessary to perform with excellence on the phone? How can phone skills be powerful? Why can improving your phone be transformative for your bottom line over an extended period of time?

It’s necessary to deliver an optimal customer experience and maximize revenue opportunities over the phone because the reality is: the phone isn’t going away. Instead, the phone is exceedingly becoming your number one conversion channel. Face it, excellent phone performance is the leading method to successfully capturing and scoring incoming leads through that channel.

Effective phone performance doesn’t come down to knowing how to define good phone skills; it comes down to building a feedback loop around metrics that drive results.

If you want to build up your sales team to be phone experts than what you need is a feedback loop that points back to CRISP. Without an effective feedback loop, CRISP would be nothing more than a bunch of randomized letters clumped together.

Lucky for us, CRISP is not random. In fact, CRISP is an effective philosophy that includes all the essential elements of a successful phone regimen.

CRISP means:

– Connecting your caller with a qualified agent and never leaving a caller stranded.

– Requesting the appointment on every call and Inviting the caller into the dealership for a test drive.

– Setting a specific date and time, then confirming with a reminder.

– Pursuing established customers and new leads, rescuing stranded calls and saving missed appointment opportunities.

What is a Feedback Loop?

So how does a feedback loop tie into CRISP? First let me explain the concept of an effective feedback loop. Here is where you’ll understand my speed trap analogy; funny enough, it illustrates how a feedback loop ideally works.

We’ve all seen a standard school zone sign. The sign asks drivers to slow their speed to 25 mph. Unfortunately, everyone, including me, ignores the sign. They attempt to draw attention to the sign by painting a bright yellow stripe across the top. What a joke, the sign remains ignored. Next, they decide to add a giant orange blinking light at the top of the sign in hopes of making it eye catching. But, guess what? That’s ignored too. So what next? They set up a speed trap by planting a police officer with a radar gun right next to the sign.

What do you think happens now?

I know for me, if I am driving through a school zone and see the policeman, my immediate reaction is to pump my brake in an attempt to slow down before the radar clocks me. Then, I anxiously glance back and forth between the officer and my dashboard.

I have no problem self-incriminated myself here. I definitely wasn’t under the speed limit before I noticed the officer with the radar and, let’s be honest, I am probably not going to be under the speed limit tomorrow if I notice that the cop is no longer stationed by the sign.

The attempt to change my habitual speeding behavior by posting an officer near the sign for a single day was only effective enough to encourage a temporary adjustment. My sole motivation for slowing down was to avoid getting in trouble in that moment.

This is important, because there is an obvious analogy to the dealership manager who reviews his sales team’s phone calls.

How so?

Let me explain. Most dealerships are not reviewing phone calls at all. However, the dealers who do review their calls often take the same approach as the school zone speed trap. They will listen to a couple of calls, yell at the guys who are performing poorly, and then lament over the fact that their phone performance still suffers. Let’s agree, it’s not affordable to station a policeman in every school zone everyday. Just like you can’t afford to listen to endless hours of phone calls and micro-manage your team’s phone performance every moment of the day.

This is where the feedback loop comes into play.

Officials have found a way to enforce speed reduction in school zones. How? With the dynamic “your speed” sign.

This makes absolutely no sense. Every driver already has a speedometer sitting right in front of them on the dash, and there is no punitive action if the “your speed” sign says that you are going too fast. There’s no policeman sitting there ready to write a ticket. This sign gives redundant information. Plus, there’s no consequence for being outside the limit. But somehow, this sign is wildly effective. Better yet, these signs don’t just get people to tap the breaks either; they actually condition permanent behavior adjustment. This is a feedback loop that works.

Achieving an Effective Feedback Loop

In general, there are four steps to an effective feedback loop.

The first step of an effective feedback loop is collecting data. If we want to manage data, first we have to measure it. The “your speed” sign uses a simple radar to measure how fast I am going.

Once the data is collected, the second step is to present it back to the user in a meaningful way. Essentially, provide relevant context. My speed is posted right on top of the legal speed limit. If I am going 27 mph, I can clearly see that I am going faster than the regulated speed limit of 25 mph.

Now that I am undeniably aware of what is happening, I make an adjustment. This is the response stage, number three. I see I am going too fast, so I step on the break. For a feedback loop to work, it has to provide a clear path to the preferred action.

The last step of the feedback loop is the trigger that creates new habits. That trigger is the constant presentation of meaningful data that guides me to the desired outcome, speed reduction. Those actions start to become internalized. When I drive in this school zone every day on the way to work, I now drop my speed out of habit. When I drive down that road on a Saturday, the guy behind me honks, because I am going 25 still without even realizing it. It now feels funny to go faster, because I am conditioned to drive at a slower speed Monday through Friday.

Let’s apply the same loop to your phone traffic and CRISP.

Step 1: Provide evidence.

The phones must be measured, captured, and scored. Just like the built-in radar measures how fast your car is traveling through the school zone, similarly, you need a simple way to collect data about what’s happening on your phones. This could be as simple as taking a pen and paper to list out how each employee is performing within their CRISP phone metrics, or this can be as sophisticated as a call tracking solution that’s integrated with your CRM to track these metrics for you.

Step 2: Display relevant and meaningful data to the viewer.

For a feedback loop to be effective, we know we can’t just collect the data. We have to present it back in a meaningful way. Numbers by themselves don’t mean anything, what makes them useful is when you can present them in an applicable context.

When you rank sales agents or even whole dealerships’ overall phone skills against one another you instantly see how performance becomes highly incentivized. The competition is heightened when their performance is tracked based on whether or not they are falling behind or leading in the benchmarks of their fellow sales agents, auto groups, CRMs, and franchises.

Step 3: Make the required response obvious.

For the feedback loop to be effective, the data needs to be easily digestible while making the desired response obvious. Start by standardizing the way you want your team to execute on each CRISP metric.

For instance, set the expectation to eliminate sending callers to voicemails to improve your connection rates and limit the number of stranded callers. Additionally, measure your team’s outbound pursue efforts based on the number of live conversations versus merely measuring call quota.

Another great way to make the response obvious is to identify missed opportunities then formalize the actions that should be taken to salvage those mishandled leads. A simple way to accomplish this is by listening to phone calls and alerting your manager each time a customer calls in asking about inventory but isn’t invited into the dealership. Hold your manager accountable to pursuing that hot lead by the customer back and inviting them into the dealership for a test drive.

Getting into the habit of pursuing missed opportunities will automatically land you with more revenue opportunities. You don’t even have to spend an extra dime on marketing, just do more with the leads you are already getting. By establishing CRISP standards for phone behavior you can foster habitual responses that drive a thriving phone culture.

Step 4: Form new habits.

The constant serving of meaningful data is the key and framing it in the right context will be the trigger to change behavior. Let’s consider a simple neuroscience hack to maximize this concept.

We, as humans, are hilariously self-centered. We love our own name and our own face. Studies have continually shown that the brain lights up when we hear or see our own name or face. We give it more attention and more value.

Want to drive motivated performance? Start associating phone skills performance with each sales agent’s name and face then display that reporting around the dealership. Take it a step further and highlight above and below the line performers in daily sales meetings.

If you want to get more leads through the door, establish a goal of how many firm appointments each sales agent needs to set per day. It’s basic logic: more set appointments, more customers will walk through the door. Display how well your team either exceeds or falls short in meeting their appointment request numbers so they can measure where they rank against their peers. Then wait and see how their performance will change.

CRISP + Feedback Loop = Successful Phone Management

It’s not about adding new tips and tricks. CRISP simply lays out what your sales guys should be doing already. Your team is likely attempting to execute one or all of the CRISP metrics to some degree every day to meet the bare minimum of their job. But, right now, you are struggling to know how badly or how CRISP your team is with every revenue opportunity that calls in.

The struggle comes down the fact that you may have an ineffective speed trap set up for your phone management today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change effectiveness of your feedback loop tomorrow.

Enforce CRISP through an effective feedback loop and you will see how motivated performance can permanently change the phone culture at your dealership for the better.

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