Customer service and technical support are critical components of any automotive technology. And, while most dealerships have learned how to compare product features, they still don’t know how to evaluate the quality of a vendor’s support offering. Having hired many customer service representatives in the automotive industry, I’ve developed a list of five attributes that every rep should possess. You can use the same criteria when evaluating the quality of support being offered by your vendors.

1. Empathy: Nobody calls a technology support team because they are having a good day. This is the first and most important thing that support representatives need to understand. In order to successfully serve someone who is frustrated, frazzled or upset, reps have to be able to put themselves in the shoes of their clients. To successfully solve a problem that is not their own, support team members need to understand and feel what the client is actually going through.

2. Intelligence: Once we have established that a customer service candidate can demonstrate empathy, we begin to test for intelligence. Dealership technologies are complex products and our clients are trying to solve complex problems. For this reason, we look for people with both technical expertise and critical thinking skills. They need to know how our system is supposed to work but they also need to think about what a customer is trying to accomplish.

Most customer service calls come from dealership personnel who are trying to learn a process or solve a business problem and have nothing to do with a product failure. Dealerships should expect their tech vendors to provide customer support teams capable of serving both types of needs.

3. Attention to Detail: When evaluating a customer service offering, dealerships should expect representatives to be detail-oriented. Complicated problems often involve thorough research, careful documentation, and meticulous communication. Many support requests require multiple phone calls with the client and collaboration with several internal departments. Staying organized as these complex processes unfold requires a special set of skills and a serious attention to detail.

4. Winning Mindset: Some of the qualities that make great customer service representatives are not so obvious. For example, we look for people who absolutely hate to lose. We believe that the drive to win translates into a refusal to fail when solving customer problems. We also find that these personalities tend to take it personally when a customer is not satisfied with an interaction. Highly competitive service reps will go to the ends of the earth to resolve a support issue.

5. Teamwork: When you place a customer service or technical support call, you’ll probably interact with just one individual. But behind the scenes, those people are part of team. No one employee can know everything about a product or have all the knowledge necessary to solve every customer’s problem. Members of a support team rely on one another and often collaborate behind the scenes to generate solutions. It’s not enough for dealerships to have access to a single customer service representative. They should expect the backing of a full support team.

When dealerships purchase new technologies, they are also selecting support teams to go along with those technologies. When evaluating new products, most dealerships generate a list of features, but don’t know what to expect when it comes to technical support. Dealerships should demand that vendor support teams demonstrate the same attributes that technology companies look for when they hire.

Kurt Olnhausen is the vice president of operations at Dealertrack DMS. Email him at [email protected].