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Search starts for best receptionist (win a trip to New York)

A good receptionist can make or lose you tens of thousands of pounds in profit every year. They are the unsung heros of the business. How good is yours?

AM, in conjunction with leading accident management company Accident Exchange, is searching for the best receptionist in the UK motor industry.

We want to hear from retailers and repairers about why your receptionist deserves to be awarded the AM/Accident Exchange Receptionist of the Year.

The competition is open to sales, service, parts and bodyshop receptionists and, for those that have them, hostesses.

They are the people who answer the phones and greet the customers in the showroom.

In most cases, the receptionist acts as the glue between departments and the customer.

Indeed, in a time when customer service, customer satisfaction and customer retention are bywords of the franchised environment, the first point of contact can be crucial.

Invariably, that’s the receptionist.

“Initially, they will always be reacting to the customer query or need,” explains Steve Evans, chief executive of Accident Exchange.

“But by being proactive in the way they respond, they can genuinely make the difference between generating income or saying goodbye to it.”

In a mystery shop of nearly 150 dealers, the accident management provider found that a staggering 78% failed to handle a customer asking for help after a collision.

Almost half that number directed the customer to their insurer without offering any assistance from the dealership.

Another 36% advised them to speak to a local bodyshop. Only one in five directed the call to the service manager or bodyshop manager after taking their details and offering to help.

“Showing willingness cannot always be monetised, but receptionists who have a full understanding of how the dealership operates can play a significant part in capturing and retaining customer business,” adds Evans.

Earlier this year, Robert Crawford, executive director of Institute of Customer Service, commented on the increase in UK PLC’s overall CSI to 69%, by stating the obvious: “The more satisfied are the more likely they are to spend.”

As Evans explains: “The fact is, your customer is no longer your customer unless you’re creating or maintaining a relationship.”

In today’s competitive market, with either no barriers to entry, or lowered ones at best, the public can get their car serviced anywhere without losing warranty rights, and repaired wherever they like – or wherever someone else tells them, in the case of insurance companies after an accident.

Dealers, repairers and bodyshops need to remember they’re not just selling a product or service; they’re selling an experience, a relationship to cover all eventualities.

It’s easy to forget that you can sell a ‘helping hand’ and bask in the benefits later.

“A good receptionist is essentially a good communicator who listens, stays calm under pressure and can adapt to any situation.

Above all, they turn reactive into proactive by doing that little bit extra,” adds Evans.

Win a trip to New York - competition judging process:

Nominations from dealer principals/general managers/workshop and bodyshop managers. Questions cover:

1. Please give the name and workplace of your nominee for the receptionist competition.

2. Give two examples of outstanding service from your receptionist when he/she has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

3. What qualities does your receptionist bring to the job?

4. How important is the role of the receptionist to your customers’ loyalty and how do they drive repeat business?

5. Why should your receptionist win this award (no more than 500 words)?

6. Please provide full contact details for your business.

Answers to be submitted via email to AM magazine at am@bauerconsumer.co.uk.

The AM/Accident Exchange Receptionist of the Year will receive, in addition to a plaque commemorating their win, a city break for two to New York, spending four nights at a four star hotel, plus $500 spending money.

The runner up will have a choice of prizes:

Either a weekend of pampering for two at Champneys spa, including all meals, unlimited use of the facilities together with a body massage, relaxing facial and a Thalassotherapy session per person.

Or a golf break - two nights at a swanky hotel for two, including two rounds of golf and dinner.

The judging panel: Stephen Briers, AM editor; Gordon Grant, Accident Exchange manufacturer director; Sue Robinson, NFDA director; Sarah Sillars, IMI chief executive; Paul Cooper, Institute of Customer Service director.

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