Let us start with this famous Thomas Edison quote: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Same holds true today as it did way back then. If you are an OEM franchised auto dealership and tired of missing tons of customer inbound calls and have finally come to the realization that something must be done, you are no doubt thinking about the term ‘Service BDC’.
Although the definition and the purview of a Service Business Development Center (BDC) has evolved over a period of time, it is now safe to say that it is essentially your Fixed Operations customer experience center and perhaps even beyond. This is where the epic battle of customer retention for both Sales and Service plays out and it all starts with a “Hello”.
Whether you are thinking about hiring an outside company or engaging in a Do It Yourself (DIY) model, there is no lessening of the fact that this is a very critical customer experience function.
Traver Connect has an immense experience in this field. We are one of the pioneers in this space and have lived through the growing pains and the front line experiences like no other. We like to think we have somewhat turned this into a near science and are delighted to share some of the best practices with the industry.
Here are Five ways that will help you not only get your Service BDC off the ground but help maintain it and ensure its ongoing success.
1. Hiring the Right Agents: This is where it starts and no doubt that not everyone is qualified for this position. A Dealership must look for two strong traits to fill this position:
- Attitude: The right attitude will overcome all obstacles trust me there will be many for this type of position to overcome. Service customers are not the easiest to handle. No one looks forward to getting their car fixed of course no one looks forward to having car troubles in the first place. So right off the bat this is a tense situation. Agent attitude will determine the tone on the phone and the smiling voice will go a long way soothing any customer pain points.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is described by Dictionary.com as the “quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”. This may be a relatively newer concept to be considered for BDC agents but being present in the moment and having the right listening skills go hand in hand. If you’re agents are not listening to the customers wholeheartedly and showing empathy there is no way they can provide an equitable solution to their problems. This is a must have skill set in every Service BDC agent. But this can be developed as well.
2. Keep the Inbound call short and sweet: An incoming call to book an appointment is not the place to be dispatching a repair order. What do I mean by that? I will explain, but first let me start with Service CRMs. Today, where a web-based scheduling CRM has brought many advances in internal service reporting and ease for customers to book an online appointment, these advances are not without their collateral damage. Shorter call times it seems has been the main casualty here. One of the unintended consequences that has emerged from these modern tools, is that the dealerships which employ these Schedulers are increasingly dealing with longer call times and more complex business rules which must be executed by the BDC agents during the call. We have seen a correlation between the increased dealer usage of Service CRM features and longer call times. Let’s remember that Service BDCs are there primarily to catch the call and book an appointment, not necessarily to dispatch the repair order to the correct shop or the drive. We do understand that some of these policies may not be in direct control of the dealership themselves and may have been mandated by the OEMs, but keeping things extraordinarily simple will work wonders for not only your CSI rankings but will keep your Service BDC humming just at the right rate. Catch the call, book the appointment and move onto the next one!
3. Relentless Training: Launching a Service BDC is just half the battle. This is not a one and done enterprise. To achieve continued success, it will be incumbent upon management to be relentless and consistent with both their training message and methods. The key here is in addition to product knowledge, one must also laser focus in on call handling skills as well. For instance specific training in areas of how to properly greet customers on the phone and speak with proper tone and voice expressions is a must. First impression is the lasting one and nowhere else it rings truer than on answering a service call. Training on how to overcome customer objections on recommended maintenance packages and how to subdue an irate customer with empathetic words and phrases is mission critical. In addition to the areas mentioned above, it will be contingent upon dealer management to keep agents motivated throughout. Equipping Service BDC agents with the right training and tools will foster self-confidence and a firm buy-in in the process and the entire purpose.
4. Planting the ‘Maintenance’ Seeds: Although there are many services and repairs that require a proper technician multi-point inspection, nevertheless there remain a set of preventive maintenances which can easily be mentioned during an appointment call. For example with a second instance of an oil & filter change it may be advisable to rotate the tires based on vehicle history. Why not quickly offer that on the call? Or why not offer balance and rotate tires with the first brake pads replacement? Wheel alignment checks could also be included to this list. Again all we are doing is educating the customer on the call and setting them up for a more fruitful discussion on the drive with their service advisor. However first and foremost thing to keep in mind here is that it is always a soft-sell approach not a hard one. Let’s even take it a step further and call it a quick customer education opportunity. Planting the seed for what the vehicle may need in addition to just an oil change when reinforced by the service advisor on the drive will validate the need and increase your service penetration rates.
5. Measuring Both the Good & the Bad: With onsite dealership-based Service BDCs, dealers must understand that they have now added a whole separate department which requires active management. From making sure to hire right, to right training and then on to executing an effective appointment booking strategy, all these efforts will require that every instance of call event is properly tracked and analyzed for departmental fine tuning and agent performance. There will also be times when customers may need to escalate an issue to upper management, so it will be imperative that the underlined communication system utilized must allow for call metrics measurement and call recordings. Total calls to total talk time must be tracked. Average call time and peak call times must also be analyzed for proper resource optimization. A robust auditing of calls when required will go a long way towards resolving conflicts and provide management with coaching opportunities. Be diligent and fair with your measurement strategy but most importantly be thorough. There is no need to hide the flaws and inefficiencies in the system for any reason, because these flaws will help you design a better Service BDC for both the near and long run. Weekly reporting in call metrics must be shared across the organization and a proper ROI report must be generated to validate the expenses of the Service BDC to make it feasible. The Service BDC typically must be responsible for a healthy majority of your booked appointments and those appointments must be tied to resulting repair orders. An accurate insight into exactly the revenue your Service BDC generates for the dealership will help towards allocating additional funding for growth purposes. This powerful axiom: What you cannot measure, you cannot improve will be spot on with your Service BDC initiative.
In the end remember the call volume of Service BDCs versus Sales BDCs is like day and night, so the assumptions that, if we can run a Sales BDC we can run a Service BDC also, will not necessarily always hold true. With Service you are asking customers to spend money they rather not so the bar on the type of customer experience is completely different. The strategies which may work on the Sales side may not work at all on the Service side. Keep an open mind and get ready to roll up your sleeves and put on some overalls and off you go. Good Luck!