When we miss the mark with e-mail phrasing, a rushed tweet or an insensitive phone voice we risk offending, sounding stupid and alienating those we wish to draw.

Are we communicating what we believe we are when doing so via these convenient channels?

By starting now to sharpen skills, dealership personnel engaging with customers online (and in person) will avoid common mistakes we all have seen (or committed) in this age of instantaneous and far-reaching communications.

The dictionary defines communication as (1) the imparting or exchanging of information or news and (2) a means of connection between people or places.

Is that what we are doing when we fire off an unthinking reply to a lead inquiry or quote by phone a price on an aftermarket product?

Blogger Laura Petrolino hit this point on the head, saying. “Online communication isn’t communication and it doesn’t denote relationship. It’s a great tool to facilitate both of those things, but it is limited in scope.”

Communication in the virtual world can be unforgiving. It is the hole in the road for many online communicators, particularly ones working in high-stress environments that promote rushed, often poorly reasoned responses.

Especially in an online world, clear and to-the-point writing (and phone calls) must rule. “He who restrains his words has knowledge,” the Proverb says.

As the industry continues to move toward a full online experience, anyone working the retail side must learn to improve response techniques. Now more than ever, we would do well to leverage emotional temperatures in our customer exchanges.

 

This sensitivity is described as an ability to perceive others’ emotions, and intuitively respond to them with understanding and compassion.

Here are tips for sharpening communication skills whether on the phone, online or in person.

Relating: Personal communication relies as much on voice tone, facial gestures and body language as it does on word choice. Many cold-call training courses advise smiling into a mirror when making calls. This simple act brightens the tone transmitted to the listener.

Emojis aside, voice tone, body language and other visual cues are missing when most digital communications are engaged. Ever receive an email typed in ALL CAPS? What is your reaction when you get one of those?

Listening: Few of us listen well. Experts tell us what we mostly are doing is formulating our response. Instead, hear to ask better questions. Clarify what you heard. Listen for the whole story. When you patiently do that, you are less likely to jump to a premature (and wrong) conclusion.

Use the old newspaper five “W’s” for getting the story: Who, what, when, where, and why.

Writing: Use the computer’s spell check tool, but beware it is not foolproof. Chose the right words for the occasion. Use an online thesaurus for help on word choice. Take the extra minutes and effort to compose the proper response in tone, message and respect.

Mark Twain once said about choosing the correct word for the situation, “There is a big difference between lightening and a lightening bug.”

Tools such as Grammarly at www.grammarly.com and WordRake help proof and tighten writing.

Speaking: Try this. Call a half dozen businesses, at least two being car dealerships. Rate how your call is answered. Compare it with how callers to your dealership might rate your phone skills. Does the response leave you feeling like you’re bothering them? Does anyone thank customers for doing business with them anymore? Don’t get me going…

The point is, have a little gratitude in your heart for every call coming into the dealership. When you return a call, know what you want to say. Have facts and figures at your side. Speak slowly and clearly. Don’t rush. Listen carefully. Say thank you often.

Selling Value: Every product you sell has features and benefits but that’s not why people buy them. They buy because those products offer a promise or solution to future problems. Service contracts provide investment and budget protection. GAP insurance protects against potential collision loss. Prepaid maintenance promotes routine maintenance, which most factory warranties require, and extends the life of the vehicle.

Counterintuitively, F&I in this era of digital communications requires a greater focus on communication fundamentals.

Swift and convenient communication tools are great, but they put users at risk of sounding brash, negative and unclear. Don’t let that happen. Be sure all your communications demonstrate professionalism and competency.

Lloyd Trushel is a member of a group of associated companies and undertakings including Consator Group, F&IQ, CAP Warranty, First Choice Warranty and Intelibuy. He previously was an F&I trainer and account manager for Assurant. Contact him at lloyd@consatorgroup.com.