Do you have a business development center (BDC)? Have you thought about adding one?

With the goal of developing sales and service business for a dealership, a BDC representative’s job is to manage a dealership’s inbound and outbound customer relationships — making calls to arrange appointments — both with new leads and previous customers.

But there are a lot of differing opinions on the value BDC departments bring. When it comes to sales, some automotive professionals think BDCs are crucial to success, others think the responsibilities should be handled by sales teams.

However, most agree that BDCs can bring great value to dealership service departments.

Three ways BDCs benefit service departments

1. BDCs make you look good

When service advisors are doing double duty (making and answering calls and managing customers in the service department), it can mean for bad customer experience both on the customers waiting in the dealership and the ones waiting on hold.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your service customers’ experience, look to your BDC team. They can make many of these necessary calls more effectively and efficiently than a service advisor might.

Not only does this help ensure fewer calls are mishandled, dropped, or placed on hold, it allows your service advisors to focus on the other valuable, in-person customer interactions they have throughout their day.

Letting BDC teams set service appointments, for example, can also protect your customer satisfaction index (CSI) score. Doing so means customers get your company’s full attention while setting an appointment and receive a satisfactory, timely resolution to their inquiry.

2. BDCs get customers in your door

The top priority in any dealership service department is to improve its customer acquisition and retention. One of the best-known ways to do this is to build relationships through personalized customer interactions.

Relying on your BDC agents to do this is smart. They’re often hired for their friendliness and over-the-phone engagement skills.

Let them reach out to new customers with valuable deals and offers. Set a cadence for reaching out to your current customers with recommended service schedule reminders and incentives.

Just make sure they’re consistent with follow-up and planning the next steps. For example, best practices advocate for scheduling specific appointment times over making arbitrary commitments to stop by (read on to find out why).

3. BDCs collect important information

With a little bit of preparation, your BDC team can also help you gather valuable data from your customers. In fact, while they’re having a discussion with someone on the phone may be the only time to get it.

For example, if you’re having trouble getting appointments on your books, BDC agents can help you learn why.

Train them to ask why services were declined. Did the customer go elsewhere? If so, why? Were the repairs too expensive? Was the timing inconvenient

Because BDCs are trained to manage customer relationships, they’re great at digging a little deeper. Once you have the feedback, though, it’s your job to take it seriously and make any necessary changes.

Best practices for BDC teams

Despite these benefits, everyone agrees that getting it right is hard. Here are a few tips for making sure you’re getting the most from your BDC team.

Work smart

The performance of your BDC department must justify its cost. In general terms: Be profitable.

Don’t make your BDC team an additional hoop for your already-interested customers to jump through. Ensure your call team’s focus is on generating new business or rekindling relationships with existing customers who might be ready to repurchase.

Poor execution — whether it’s your staff, equipment, training practices, or compensation methods — can jeopardize your intended benefits. Make sure you take a close look at each if you’re experiencing sub-par results.

Hire the right people

Your BDC agents’ top skill should be building relationships. Seek out personalities that are great at making genuine connections quickly.

Measuring your team’s competency through metrics like talk tracks and time on-call will be the best leading indicator of success. Giving your team ample training opportunities and specific scripts to follow can also be beneficial.

Give them one goal

The only goal of your BDC team should be to set appointments that show. To maximize their efficiency at doing so, discourage them from selling on the phone.

When you have this expectation of your team, it’s important you teach them how to handle rejection and follow up appropriately.

Encourage strong appointments and referrals

Make sure the appointments your BDC sets are for a specific day and time. Data has shown that “I’ll be there before 9 a.m.” appointments seldom show. The best way to do this is to set up your compensation package to support it.

It’s also important to teach your BDC agents how to get referrals while they’re on the phone. Not surprisingly, referral appointments convert at a much higher rate than pure cold-calls.

Encourage a partnership with sales and service

At times, it might feel like you are paying two people for one sale, but remember your BDC and sales teams make each other successful. Their relationship allows each team to focus on their biggest impact on your business.

Encourage a seamless partnership by implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system to communicate customer details and make a record of relationship interactions.

How to measure success

Keep your team accountable by collecting the right metrics. Use them to adjust your approach and improve your ROI.

To do this you’ll need call and lead tracking technology (like a CRM) with reports you can pull. Here are the kinds of metrics you should pay attention to and what they could mean:   

Time on phone

In most cases, your BDC agents’ calls should be brief, regardless of the intent. But it is possible to see longer inbound calls, which can signal relationship building or problem-solving.

Bad number ratio

It’s hard to make appointments if you cannot get anyone on the phone. A ratio of 10% or more bad calls or unanswered calls could mean you need to clean your database and update it with new contact information.

Appointments

You should keep a record of how many appointments you’ve scheduled, how many were fulfilled, and how many resulted in sales. Periodically comparing periods of time and evaluating the context for patterns will help you scale your successes.

Alternatives to a BDC

Internally run BDC teams may not be the right solution for every dealership. Here are some alternatives that allow you many of the same customer success benefits:

Outsourcing

When you can’t justify the investment of an internal team, try outsourcing with a call center. Many vendors specialize in providing these services and source talent with the phone skills they need to be successful.

The caveat is that these individuals may not be as familiar with your dealership’s story, which can be beneficial to both relationship-building and trust. If you choose this option, make sure your data sharing technologies jive.

Using technology

Some technologies can manage customer retention and satisfaction digitally. This option may make sense for you if you’re looking for something that avoids the investment and risks involved with hiring.

There are several technologies that can step in and help you to improve customer experience, making appointments, and connecting with customers.

The route to success

No matter which solution you choose, the key is to make sure management trusts your decision. Getting the buy-in early can encourage positive relationships and clear communication across your entire dealership.

We all know it takes a village to take better care of your customers. What are you doing to deliver what they want with a positive, seamless experience that ensures they’ll be back?

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