Many dealers have toyed with the idea of a Business Development Center, or BDC. Some have implemented one, only to find it unsustainable within their operational strategy. Others did some mental math or thought out the logistics and decided against incorporating one under their roof. Still others have a fully staffed BDC in their store today. Regardless of which of these camps you find yourself in, the BDC, and in fact, your entire follow-up strategy could use a hard and long second look. Math and metrics aside, let’s evaluate what customers want and how to best give it to them.
Customers today know they have choices. They do plenty of research online, referencing upwards of 20 separate sources for information before deciding to visit a dealership. In fact, many customers don’t commit to visiting a location until they have had all their questions answered via a phone call or email inquiry. This means fewer prospects in your showroom, and more communication required by means you can’t see or manage at the desk. You need an easy to use CRM, and could consider call recording for training purposes. You need to know that the follow up to customers who have bothered to visit you is high quality and professional; that the emails sent are well written, timely, and answer the customer’s questions. Earning a customer’s business today demands a level of follow-up we have not customarily catered to in this industry before. Consider that your existing infrastructure may not be able to sustain a profitable BDC, but that your future market position demands the caliber of communication traditionally generated in one.
There are a few universal reasons why dealers don’t like to operate their own BDC.
■ Additional fixed overhead expense in the form of hardware, software licenses, employee costs and training.
■ The challenge of hiring, training, licensing and managing a team of customer service representatives in the unstructured dealership environment.
■ Inter-departmental politics and alliances which can cause headache and distraction when sales people interfere with the CSRs duty to remain objective and provide excellent care to every customer.
What if you could gain the benefits of a well trained, highly effective BDC without any of the challenges above? New product offerings from tried and true partners may offer you the opportunity to do just that. Taking a second look at outsourced solutions could yield the best balance of benefit versus commitment, while allowing your existing sales team to focus on their unique strength: guiding customers to a sale in the showroom.
Look for a vendor which offers cost-per-call follow-up services, and you can turn what was once an all year round fixed expense in to a seasonally-adjustable marketing expense that mirrors your rate of sale. Accepting that phone and email follow-up are separate skill sets, equal to but not often present alongside face-to-face closing abilities, can relieve your sales manager and sales representatives of a lot of pressure, without sacrificing the customer experience you want your prospects to enjoy. In short, let people do what they are best at, rather than doing ten things they are passably fair at. Eliminate the competition between the BDC and sales reps who are certain these “call center people” are stealing their customers, as well as the temptation to intercept the sales follow-up process by removing the BDC from your store altogether.
It may seem like a contradiction, but in today’s digitally driven world, with the resulting decrease in foot traffic, good old-fashioned phone follow-up is everything. Remember the inverse relationship between control and trust: customers don’t trust car dealers, and thus they do everything they can to avoid being controlled in the sales process, including avoiding voicing their objections to sale people. Take away the aspect of control and customers trust us more. Having an unbiased third party following up to make sure they enjoyed their experience serves this purpose, benefitting the customer and the dealer equally.
Cathie Clark has over 20 years of automotive industry experience, and is currently a dealer principal and president of Automotive Insider Consulting. Equal parts competitive car dealer and compassionate dealer educator, Cathie offers insight into digital and traditional marketing, F&I and sales processes as well as proactive compliance to improve customer experience. Reach Cathie on Twitter @autoinsidercat or at