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Auto Success April - Helping your BDCs

Originally seen on Auto Success magazine

By: Jennifer Sanford

Process implementation and consistency within dealership Business Development Centers (BDC) doesn’t have the best track record. Though many dealerships have processes in place for service BDCs, they are hard to manage and maintain.

Traditionally, a dealership BDC trains employees to handle both outbound and inbound calls for the store. In the case of the service BDC, that effort is focused on setting service appointments, alerting customers to vehicle recalls, ordering parts and conducting follow ups, just to name a few. These are all individually time-consuming tasks, so it’s no surprise that new and used car dealerships have opted for extra help via automated phone systems.

With automated systems, the options are preset: “Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Service,” etc., which, in theory, seems like it would help. But what about customers that call with questions that don’t fit nicely into one of those options? That customer gets rerouted until he or she either hangs up and goes to another store — or sends an incredibly frustrated email, posts a negative review about the store’s “customer service” or, perhaps, does all of the above.

Even dealerships with audio interactive voice response (IVR) systems experience this problem. If a customer can’t get through the yes or no voice prompts in a timely fashion to reach a live support representative, that customer is gone. Additionally, since customer data isn’t captured in these systems, there’s no history of the customer’s concerns for an actual BDC rep to address.

From the customers’ standpoint, the dealership’s phone system should route them to the right person or department. The problem is that purely automated systems don’t do that. Instead, customers experience inconsistent options, longer hold times, awkward pauses and a general lack of professionalism. During a recent mystery shop experience, an 18-store dealer group with a centralized BDC of just under 20 representatives had an average customer wait time of over three minutes — just to answer the phone!

While your people are, and should be, your highest priority, simply hiring additional BDC staff isn’t the solution. Spending the time and money to hire, train and manage additional staff doesn’t make sense if their tasks aren’t better defined. Ever heard the expression, “jack of all trades, master of none”? Well, that’s what your BDC becomes, no matter how much staff you put in there.

The solution is two-fold. First, your BDC staff simply cannot do it all. There are not enough hours in the day or days in the week to handle every inbound call, and make revenue-driving outbound calls, follow up with every customer, alert customers to vehicle recalls, schedule service appointments and check on inventory. This creates a never-ending cycle of underperformance for employees, which only fuels their desire to leave your store and work for someone else. If you haven’t mystery-shopped your store in a while, I highly recommend doing it. You’ll be able to experience the exasperation of your employees firsthand.

Second, as this may come as a surprise, your BDC staff doesn’t have to do it all. Take your service BDC for example. Would you rather have your staff handling in-bound service scheduling or outbound vehicle recall conversations? Would you like your staff confirming preset appointments or contacting customers about available vehicle parts that are in inventory?

The mundane, repetitive tasks, such as service appointment reminders or service scheduling, can be easily handled via conversation artificial intelligence (AI) technology. In addition to answering the call in one ring, the use of dynamic dialog AI, not automated systems, doesn’t limit customers’ options. Rather than being frustrated, customers have productive conversations with natural language AI technology, while your focused and trained BDC staff is targeting more important tasks for your store.

Rather than generalists, your employees become specialists, elevating not only employee satisfaction but output as well. By lifting the burden of time-consuming, but simple and repetitive, transactions from your BDC representatives, dealerships can flourish with productive employees and happier customers.

Jennifer Sanford is the vice president of marketing and industry relations at Telepathy Labs for STELLA Automotive.

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