08 Aug Alan Ram featured in the August edition of Dealer Solutions Magazine
Think Twice Before Going Under the Knife
Let me say at the outset; I love BDCs. Like anything else though, there are efficient, productive models as well as ineffective ones. Like plastic surgery, when done wrong, you can end up creating more problems than you solve. The acronym “BDC” does not have an absolute definition. There are several variations as well as activities that any BDC might be engaged in. Let’s talk specifically about how phone ups as well as Internet leads are handled at your dealership.
A typical call to my office yesterday: A general manager calling from Washington State wanting training for his BDC that his dealership is in the process of setting up. My first question was, “What will your BDC be doing?” First and foremost on his mind was handling inbound sales calls as well as Internet leads. He followed that up by telling me that his sales staff is absolutely terrible on the phones and that listening to call monitoring makes him nauseous. His solution is hiring three or four people primarily dedicated to handling his sales calls and Internet leads. I replied, “So, your sales people are terrible on the phones? How much have you actually trained them?” There was a long pause before he replied, “We really haven’t done any training.” Well, there you go! That wasn’t too hard to figure out. His desire to set up this BDC was born out of a failure in training. You can’t blame your people if you have not properly trained them. Think about it this way; because you have failed to train, you’re now looking to hire a second group of people (that you probably won’t train properly either) to do what the first group should be doing. Talk about an expense! Train your people to do the jobs you hired them to do! If I sell cars at your dealership I should be qualified to talk to customers not only face-to-face, but on the telephone and Internet as well. The skill set required to do so does not warrant the expense of hiring additional staff.
Let’s take this a step further. One of the biggest challenges we have at dealerships today is finding good people. Put yourself in the position of a good salesperson looking for a place to work. You walk into a dealership to interview. It’s a beautiful facility and a great brand. Then the person interviewing you drops the bomb; “By the way, our BDC takes all sales calls as well as handling our Internet leads.” At that point, I would imagine you would stand up, thank the interviewer for their time, and walk out the door to the dealership that lets you handle phone ups and Internet leads. Do not kid yourself. That is a huge challenge that many dealers hadn’t considered, but are now facing. Good salespeople avoid working at those dealerships that severely restrict their opportunities and those dealerships tend to become a culture of telemarketers and greeters.
Here’s something else that we all know: Customers today are more informed than they have ever been. This is no time to be dumbing down your process. Your customers have specific questions they want answered prior to touching tile at your dealership. Non-salespeople are not equipped to intelligently discuss the product, competition, option packages, vehicle specifications or inventory. Unless your customers are all simply calling to get directions to the dealership or inquire about your hours, your TRAINED salespeople should be getting the calls. Customers would also prefer to talk to the person they’ll be talking to when they get there. I am shocked when I hear that manufacturers are encouraging dealers to set up BDCs with non-salespeople taking calls and handling Internet leads when survey after survey has shown that customers hate being passed around. By having non-salespeople handle this initial lead, we’re simply starting to pass them around even earlier. If we truly care as an industry about what the customer wants, in this case, the customer has already spoken.
A good BDC model is lean and efficient. Some critical functions your BDC can and should be performing are handling inbound as well as outbound service and parts calls. A well-run service BDC can be an invaluable asset. Your BDC can also be making third party follow-up calls to unsold customers as well as generating traffic with sold customer campaigns. There are plenty of high return activities your BDC can and should be focused on. You might just want to reconsider adding sales calls and Internet leads to that list. No dealership is going to consistently perform at a high level despite a lack of effective training as well as strong processes. Those are the foundations of any successful organization. Before you put your dealership under the knife take a good look in the mirror. Let’s make sure that your BDC is an investment versus a reflection of your failure to train.