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The Automotive BDC Hurdle

Hiring in the United States is a challenge right now – and automotive is no exception. A significant pain point for dealers is hiring for the dealership’s business development center.

For many franchise auto dealerships in the U.S., automotive business development centers (BDCs) started out as sales support staff. They were hired either part-time or full-time to qualify leads or dealership prospects. They were, and often still are, the first impression a customer has with a specific dealership. Business development representatives (BDRs) usually start the sales process and then hand off a customer to a member of the sales staff to complete the sale. For this reason, BDC representatives are usually perceived as entry-level customer support. BDC managers were often team members with strong sales skills, not necessarily those with a well-developed customer experience or managerial background. With little prospect for career development or time to build specialized skills, BDC employees often leave their jobs to pursue new professional opportunities. There are many stories of managers struggling with their automotive BDC departments, and many more asking if having a BDC is even worth it.

Today’s dealership BDC staff has taken on additional responsibilities, making it even more vital to hire and retain the most qualified staff possible. In addition to qualifying sales leads, an internal BDC staff also supports the service department – calling customers to schedule routine maintenance, handling inbound calls for appointments, status updates or potentially identifying upgrades or retention opportunities. Many dealer groups with multiple locations have begun centralizing their BDC departments into one larger team, or even outsourcing some of the BDC tasks altogether.

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Dealers are constantly trying to figure out the most efficient way to structure and increase efficiencies within the automotive BDC department at their stores and, for good reason. The responsibilities of BDRs have grown, without removing any of the original tasks. The staff is still responsible for supporting sales, sending out prospect emails or making phone calls, and taking inbound calls for sales and service as well. They’re juggling their sales support responsibilities – making outbound calls and sending prospect emails – with inbound dealership requests. They’re doing service department outreach – alerting customers to vehicle parts recalls while also juggling the inbound customer appointments that need to be booked. As responsibilities have changed, so have pay plans. Some dealerships pay a small salary plus performance-based bonus to all BDC representatives. Others do tier-based salaries with bonuses based on appointments that show, or BDC leads that convert to sales. There’s no consistency across the industry around structure or pay for the BDC, and that’s one of the reasons it is considered the most frustrating department of the dealership.* Current BDC structures are simply not working – for the staff or the customer. BDRs shouldn’t have to be buried under inbound appointment requests when their customer service skills, and time, could be better spent on outbound prospecting.


What if, instead of trying and failing with your BDC, you could create an environment where your employees are able to develop their careers while handling the most immediate customer needs? What if you could create a more efficient BDC structure where show rates increased and routine tasks – like scheduling customer appointments – didn’t fall through the cracks? This is how true conversational AI can support the BDC. STELLA’s conversational AI technology can handle every inbound call that comes into a dealership. Unlike IVR’s which have an artificial rotation of options, STELLA simply asks “How can I help you?” Customers can say exactly why they’re calling the store, instead of being forced to select a specific option. STELLA has the ability to integrate with most service schedulers, allowing callers to schedule the appointment right then and there – eliminating the time needed for Service Advisors or BDRs to return phone calls. The STELLA AI technology understands native language and, as is true for real AI, learns the more it’s used. This means that as a dealership implements and uses STELLA, the results get better over time. Dealership management does not need to build if-then statements because STELLA learns without supervision. Implementing STELLA increased the show rates in one Honda dealership by 20%.

The STELLA conversational AI supports a dealership’s BDC staff. STELLA works every hour of every day so managers don’t have to worry about missing customers – even when the dealership is closed. BDRs can focus on outbound calls or more complex phone calls, and dealership employees can focus on customers that are in the store. All the while, STELLA handles routine appointments and scheduling in the background. For BDRs, this frees time for customer experience training and development, which leads to employees feeling more valued in their roles. The dealerships that want to be able to retain and train a successful BDC staff in the future will need the automation support that STELLA provides to get there.


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