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Article: What's On Second - Getting the most out of a phone call

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What’s on Second Gonzo 2010


My office manager is also my oldest daughter Katie, a bright, pretty gal with a quick wit and long beautiful red hair. Naturally, Katie gets all the phone calls and front office issues. She does a great job, and makes everything feel like a day at the ball park. Sometimes I wonder if she shouldn’t be a comedian, or even have her own vaudeville act.

She cracks me up with some of her responses to those wacky phone calls we all tend to receive at the repair shop.

On one occasion I happened to be in the office, and listened in on a conversation she was having with a prospective customer. The way she handled it was remarkable. With the phone on speaker I couldn’t help but hear the entire conversation. By the end of the phone call I was laughing so hard that I nearly forgot I was only supposed to be listening and to keep quiet. I did, but managed to have a big smile on my face for the rest of the day. The phone call went something like this;

“Good morning, this is Katie, may I help you?”

“Yes, I had my car over at the transmission shop, and they recommended you guys,” the caller said.

“Ok, great, is it a shifting problem?” she asked.

“No, it’s an electrical problem.”

“We certainly do that kind of work. When would you like to bring it in and have it diagnosed?”

“No, I already had it diagnosed at the other shop.”

“They did, did they? Did they tell you what the problem was?”

“No, they didn’t know what was wrong with it. That’s why they sent me to you.”

About now Katie is getting the raised eyebrow look going, and her pen is scribbling some sort of gibberish on the note pad. Something is up. I can tell you know… I’ve answered phone calls like this myself. Let’s see how Katie handles this … I’ll listen in a little more.

“So did they give you any clues to what the problem was?” she asked curiously.

“They said they didn’t know.”

“Well that doesn’t help either one of us… let’s start this all over again. It sounds to me like the other shop checked it out, and determined that it was something they couldn’t handle and recommended us. Their best guess was that it was something electrical. Then they gave you our phone number, and told you we could take care of it. Am I pretty close to what’s going on sir?” Katie asked.

“Quite right”

“Ok, let’s see if we can knock one out of the old ball park. First off… the transmission shop sent you to … … … who?”

“To you…”

“Great we’ve made it to first base. Now then, let’s head to 2nd base… that’s where we figure out the “what’s wrong with it” part.”

He quickly interrupted her… “Nope, already did that.”

“Well, what’s wrong with it then?” Katie asked.

“I don’t know, and they couldn’t tell me either,” the caller said.

“Sir, somehow we have made it all the way to third base, and haven’t touched second at all,” she answers.

“I don’t understand what you’re getting at,” the bewildered caller said.

“Let’s try this again,” Katie goes on with, “We have established that the “who” part of this is to bring the car here. As of now we have a good foot hold on first base… the second thing is the “what” part, and that’s where we are having a problem… the “I don’t know” part can be answered once we have it diagnosed.

“I already had it diagnosed.”

“Ok, then “what’s” wrong with it?”

“I don’t know.” (Here we go again, passed 2nd and slid into 3rd)

“Naturally,” Katie answers him with that -I’m not going thru this again- look on her face, “They didn’t know… that’s why you’re talking to me.”

“I don’t think you understand,” he answers her.

“Oh, I understand perfectly well, sir. I don’t think you understand that I can’t repair it, unless I know what is wrong with it,” she answers back, “This is why I wanted to start you off with “who’s” on first… which is me.”

“But, I just told you… they diagnosed it already.”

“Who did?”

“Not you…………, they did.”

“What did they tell you was wrong with it?”

“I don’t know……………,” our caller answered while making another beeline for 3rd base.

“Sir, we will need to diagnose it all over again in order to find out “what” is wrong with it… and hopefully avoid that 3rd base.”

“What 3rd base?”

“What is the 2nd base, I don’t know is 3rd,” Katie answered him.

“So, we need to stay on what?” asks the caller.

“Yes, second base.”

“Who’s on 1st?”

“Naturally, I’m on first base. I thought we already got past that point. We need to move onto 2nd base.”

“Second base, will that fix my car?”

“I don’t know”, said Katie.

“So are we on 2nd or 3rd now?” the caller asked.

“Sir, I’m still on 1st base where we started. Now let’s try 2nd again. I still need to get it diagnosed… that’s second base,” Katie answered.

“I already had it diagnosed,” stated the caller.

“And what did they find out?”

“I don’t know… … … 3rd base,” they both answered in unison without missing a beat.

The phone call went on for some time. I’m about to fall off the barstool laughing so hard. We all know what the problem is. It’s not the what, who, or I don’t know… it’s because he has already paid someone to check his car out, and they failed to find the problem. So “naturally”, the customer assumes that there is no need in paying for the same thing a second time, if nothing came about it the first time around. (Try that when you go to a second doctor for another opinion)

I understand their plight. I just wish when he got up to bat at the first shop they would have done a better job of explaining to him about the necessary procedures to make these repairs. Then again the charges the customer was given might have been for other work, and not for any diagnostics at all…..but that never made it into the conversation.


The call ended with, “I can’t bring it today, but I can bring it in tomorrow.”

What a relief, “Because”- (he’s in the outfield)… today is the day to catch wacky phone calls, and I’ve caught all the foul balls I can stand for one day. I just hope “Tomorrow” doesn’t end up throwing me any wild pitches.


So no matter how you handle things in the office or in the shop… sometimes you just want to make it around the bases without getting tagged. And there’s one more thing I’m sure of -- I don’t want to end up with the customer only making a “short stop” in my shop, because we haven’t seen eye to eye on how the problem needs to be resolved…


Cause, we all know that short stop’s name……


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