Traver Connect | BDC Operations
Traver Connect provides Service BDC Solutions, designed for nearly every OEM brand to support and help Dealers by #CatchTheCall, #LoadTheShop, and #RemedyTheRecall
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BDC Operations

By Rob Canales, VP of Product Development, Traver Connect

This age-old dilemma persists with one key difference, the recent trend has seen an increase in focusing on Service BDCs, not Sales BDCs.  We say, Welcome to the Party!!!

Short version, the answer is Buy.  Here’s why.

  • When you outsource your calls to a Service BDC partner, you get more call agent resources and more hours of coverage at a lower hourly rate compared to doing it in-house for fewer hours of coverage. More resources equals more calls answered, lower hold times, and more appointments made.  It’s simply a numbers game, economies of scale is king.
  • When you keep calls in-house, the hold times start to grow, the quality of the calls begins to decline, and appointment quality suffers. Guess what else – you lose revenue, market share, and retention.  All this is very costly, far more than having a BDC partner #CatchTheCalls for you.
  • Generally speaking outsourcing will cost about half of staffing your own Service BDC.  Don’t forget you’re also probably paying for benefits, having to interview and hire constantly, paying for job ads, etc.  You get the idea.

Alternatively…

  • If you simply must have your own Service BDC, there is a hybrid option that you may find appealing. You can take the first stab at answering the calls in-house first with your small in-house team and only allow your Service BDC outsourcing partner to handle the calls you can’t get to yourself.  You get the benefit of retaining control of your Service BDC, not letting calls slip through the cracks, and getting the after hours coverage that you need.  This will cost more than simply outsourcing all your calls but let’s face it, it can be scary to just turn all of your customers over to an outside company.  This might be the happy medium you’re looking to achieve.

Good luck!

Blog Article posted in ADM. By Rob Canales, VP of Product Development, Traver Connect

When it comes to the Customer Experience (CX) delivered by your Service BDC, most dealers feel pretty strongly that a traditional, small Service BDC can be done well in-house, get the job done, and for a decent price.  Right?  Let me ask you, how high is your bar?  Are you aware how much higher it could be?  How do you compare your small team to centralized, or outsourced Service BDCs?  Why are in-house BDCs so expensive relative to call centers?  What are all the factors?  How do you know what you don’t know?

Here are a just few components from a first-class, centralized, Service BDC that make a difference, and that most dealers find difficult to replicate in-house:

  1. Commitment to Hiring and Training – All BDCs and call centers have staff turnover. No exceptions.  The difference here is that call centers are well prepared for inevitability of turnover.  They have established agent sourcing program designed to engage candidates as well as background checking and drug testing procedures in place to ensure a better candidate pool.  They are also more than “one person deep” when it comes to training new agents, on-boarding, delivering training materials consistently, and staying aware of changes to the industry.  As the saying goes, change is the only constant, embrace it and be prepared.
  2. Advanced Software and Big Data – Because call centers have a much larger call agent workforce than dealers, they often employ high-end technological solutions to ease their administrative burden and maximize operational efficiency.  One such software solution is commonly referred to “WFM” or Workforce Management.  By examining many different sets of data for calls, call agents, and scheduling (to name a few), a WFM application can assist you with maximizing productivity from your agent pool, and help you forecast accurately so that you don’t get caught off guard meeting demand.  When you combine WFM with advanced telephony software there are huge advantages/efficiencies to be gained.  Another feature/tool is the opportunity to listen live and whisper (coach up) agents in real time – huge advantage.
  3. Quality Management Program – When you hear that you’ve been shopped (by a manufacturer, partner, or competitor) do you cringe in anticipation of the result or do you relish the opportunity?  Call centers frequently measure their agent call quality, and I don’t mean two or three times a month per agent.  Try dozens of times per month.  Compare this to an in-house BDC agent that might be shopped only a handful of times.  The key difference is that call center agents expect it and know they are going to be scored often, so they deliver a more consistent message and tone because chances are pretty good big brother is scoring not to mention watching/listening, and all calls are usually recorded so that’s a factor that plays into quality as well.
  4. Business Continuity – How resilient is your Internet service?  If your primary Internet provider fails do you have a backup?  How many high-speed Internet connections do you have?  How about power outages, do you have a generator to keep your office up and running?  If so, for how long?  During inclement weather are you able/prepared to transfer your BDC calls to another location, or provide your agents with a “bad weather” option/solution so they can work from home even if they can’t get to the office because of poor conditions outside?
  5. Scale and Cost – How many calls do you get?  Sadly many dealers don’t really know.  What is your average speed to answer?  What is your average hold time?  What are your hours of coverage?  What happens to these metrics when one person doesn’t show for work?  What if two don’t make it to work the same day?  What is your cost per call?  After you pay wages and benefits (hint, if you don’t provide benefits you’re likely to have some serious churn), compare hours of coverage to a call center, factor in how expensive each missed call really is (likely a future closed RO, on average worth $250 approximately), and do all this math, you’ll find that it simply doesn’t pencil if you: want to secure your PMA, be the most profitable, maintain a decent CSI, and provide a first-class Customer Experience (CX) for your customers that you should want to retain for their next purchase.

Bottom line, if you are committed to supporting and investing in an in-house BDC (no matter how big or small), get some help with your overflow – this is a must.  If you’re struggling to keep and effectively manage even a small team, then rip off the bandage and outsource your entire Service BDC process, you really don’t have a choice and you’ll be glad you did.

Service calls are your livelihood.  You can’t afford to miss your calls.  Quit feeding your competitors and the independent shops with your missed calls.

To quote Buford T. Justice, “That’s an attention getter!”  Millennials you’ll want to check out the reference 😉

By Joe Tareen, Technical Analyst, Traver Connect

So, your dealership has decided to implement a Service BDC: Congratulations your dealership just started a customer care business unit and this business unit is nothing like what has been seen before. Up until now most of the inbound call traffic has either filtered through your receptionist and or has ringed simultaneously on all service department extensions. Well, answering all these calls has not been an easy task. Following the implementation of a Service BDC, a.k.a. customer care center, your dealership has hopefully quantified the challenge and has written down a clear statement of purpose. With the additional investments made in equipment and technology and added payroll expense of multiple agents and a supervisor, business expectations are now beyond simply answering these calls and telling customers to “just-bring-it-in”. It will not be business as usual and a new mindset and new skill sets will be required for success. What must be done then? We highlight some of the challenges and their potential solutions below for new car dealerships to consider.

  • Happy and joyful phone greeting.

Let’s start with the basics. Let’s make sure the answering agents are smiling through the phone. Every single instance of the phone greeting not only represents your brand but also enhances and, even in some cases, creates it. The reality is; many customers are anxious about bringing their vehicles in for service. Not only because of unexpected expenses that may pop up, but also the thought of being without their main mode of transportation even for half a day is just downright scary. Making each call greeting a pleasant one and always putting your customer’s needs before your own will set the right tone.

  • Proper talk-track to overcome customer frustrations.

One of the biggest mistakes dealerships or third-party vendors make when implementing a Service BDC is thinking that what worked in sales will also work in service. However, this line of thinking is fundamentally flawed. Sales BDCs are dealing with customers who happened to have a completely different emotional state. The conclusion of every sales interaction is that there is a big win waiting for every customer at the end: Driving off in a brand new car! Not so with service. Instead of a big win, at the end of a service transaction there might be a big bill waiting for them. The set of emotions in customers, which this uncertainty creates, require a completely different set of skills, talk-track and inflections to manage. Reassuring, calming, and compassionate words must be used to mitigate any stress triggers. Customers will appreciate this effort and entrust your dealership with all their hard-earned dollars.

  • Proper and accurate service menu options.

Many customers will inquire about pricing before they book an appointment. Your agents ability to not only provide accurate price quotes, but also to effectively communicate all the features and benefits of each service item will create credibility and customer confidence. Having a universal pricing strategy in the form of menu items based on each vehicle model speaks to the care and attention every customer deserves. Use your scheduling software to create easy-to-comprehend, and customer friendly menu items. It is incumbent upon management to truly understand the customer base and the surrounding demographics by custom tailoring their service offerings along with market competitive pricing. Also utilizing a detailed menu will reduce the number of times an agent will have to put a customer on hold and go ask a service advisor about the right price of the requested items or all that it contains. Make sure to link your proper operations codes in your DMS with the newly created menu item for accurate reporting results.

  • Instant communication with the service staff.

Your dealership has now truly ventured into a customer care business and might as well add a third word at the end: “communication”. No business can ever truly prosper without having an effective communication strategy with both their clients and internal team members. Better communication equals to increased operational efficiency also known as ‘productivity’. Marketing is what often drives revenue, but you can bet your bottom dollar that operational efficiency will drive your profit margins like little else. Therefore it is imperative that Service BDCs are complemented with the latest communication tools for both internal conversations and external engagements. Online tools such Slack can be utilized for internal communication as well one can create their own messaging board. For customer engagements look into various texting applications which many technology vendors are offering within their pre-existing services and solutions packages. Ultimately, you should have a plan in place to exploit all possible communication channels between your service drive personnel, the Service BDC team, and your customers.

  • Who’s managing it?

The most understated element which ultimately dictates the success or failure of this effort is going to be the Business Development Manager (BDM) or the person in-charge of running your Service BDC. In-house BDMs are essential for hiring and training agents and fine tuning your Service BDC moving forward. However, if you hire an unqualified person for this job, your entire program could be at risk. Don’t just hire a candidate who looks good on paper. Take your time and set aside a week to interview multiple candidates. Hire the one who is not only qualified but also a great fit for your dealership culture. Your BDM must be able to work and collaborate with a wide range of personality types. From the GM to a fixed operations manager, service drive manager and right down to the advisor. These various dealership positions require a varied set of personality traits. The center point of your Service BDC is going to be the BDM and his or her ability to carry forward the diverse interests and serve up multiple roles will be critical. Also your BDM must possess a combination of both technology and customer service experience. Research the space thoroughly and learn from other verticals. Do not hesitate to provide your BDM and your Service BDC with tools necessary to succeed in today’s hyper competitive environment. Constantly learn from your own operations by making analytics and reporting the most critical aspect of this endeavor. This business unit requires a leader who possesses a blend of high IQ (intelligent quotient) as well as a high EQ (emotional quotient) to succeed.  Don’t skimp on this position, pay well.  You may even consider poaching a proven, experienced candidate.

This is not going to be an easy task or a set-it-and-forget-it type of a mission. There is no doubt, today having some sort of a Service BDC, whether on-site or remote is absolutely mission critical for not only higher profits but also for higher Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) scores. Many OEMs are pushing for this and laying out the ground work to make this department a “must have” for every new car dealer partner. Ultimately, this operation will be the responsibility of the new car dealers to manage and grow. Luckily, today there are few vendors ready to assist in any shape or form. Whether in the form of consulting to help you execute your own on-site Service BDC or help you take the entire burden off by offering end-to-end solutions. Reach out to the market players in this space, set up educational sessions to learn from past mistakes and current successes. Dealers, it is time to start separating yourself from the competition. Your customers and you deserve the best!

By John Traver, CEO, Traver Connect

It was Jim Rohn who once said “Neglect starts out as an infection and then becomes a disease.”

Neglect may show itself in many forms in the service appointment process.

Too many missed incoming service calls is a form of neglect.

Long hold times while customer attempts to schedule service is neglect.

A poor appointment handling process once they get to an advisor is neglect, e.g. “Just bring it in!”

There are numerous ways “neglect” begins to “infect” your retention process.

The opposite is also true.  Retention starts with attention.  Most of your customer’s opinions will be formed during the appointment process and during the actual service visit.  Surprisingly, many dealers remain reactive in this space today with less than 21% of dealers today having centralized (internally or externally) their appointment scheduling process for their service drive.  Instead, most (over 80%) have a formalized approach to providing a multipoint inspection and menu selling system, complete with tools such as software and tablets.

It’s not that dealers don’t appear to care, as nearly all will look to the results of their CSI follow-up calls AFTER to see how satisfied their customers are.

The idea here is to move the focus to earlier in the retention process.  Instead of simply relying on “how did we do”, the suggestion here is to blueprint what you want to drive as an experience and then measure the impact on the post-visit follow-up.  In a couple of words, shop-loading is a game changer.  Shop-loading is more than just appointment setting. It’s job-centric.  It’s technician-centric. It’s productivity-centric as it aims to maximize the available hours to sell each and every day.  Three additional jobs scheduled each day is not a stretch in most dealerships.  The impact at an average Repair Order value of $250 (less than NADA current national average) is $750 per day, $15,750 per month or $189,000 annually.  And at 50% gross margin as an average, those are useful dollars in a very small example.

Catching the calls is the first key.  Then having a process to properly load the shop is the next opportunity.  So you need to centralize your incoming service calls. This means a Service BDC process of some sort.

When a dealership has a defined process for their service appointment calls and can execute that plan on a daily basis, they will have created a domino effect for positive change in the customer experience.

Your dealership may see two obvious approaches to creating a Service BDC:

  • Expand your current BDC team and build it internally
  • Or partner with a Service BDC firm of your choice and save the money and hassle while you remain focused on Sales BDC activities.

When you consider these options, here are the four most common questions to get answers for:

  1. Where?

As in, “Where will we put the Service BDC team?”

Limited Space is one of the initial challenges dealers must overcome.

The headcount for this initiative is much larger than sales due to the greater volume of inbound service calls than sales calls (over 7 times greater).

More heads translates into more space, computers, etc.

This means you will quickly see that the small filing cabinet room behind the Warranty Clerk office that can barely fit two people in it will not suffice for long as your service BDC.

Alternatively, outsourcing these calls will eliminate the need for you to find additional space, workstations, computers, etc.

  1. How?

It’s one thing to create the space but then you must build your Service BDC playbook.

The first assumption when hearing “BDC” is to assume that sales and service calls will be the same.  They are not.

Service appointment calls will require a different talk-track, different tools and rules for scheduling, a different demeanor of the BDC Rep (as compared to sales) and a completely different set of metrics for tracking the results.

Additionally, the staffing requirements for a Service BDC (days and times of call coverage) will be very challenging for the Service BDC as the volume of calls has a steady hourly flow as compared to the Sales BDC.

If you build a Service BDC internally, it will make sense to also use an external Service BDC partner to catch the overflow calls as it is almost impossible to catch them all and still justify the payroll costs.

  1. ROI?

Will we profit from this activity?

The service appointment call presents numerous opportunities for financial impact if properly scoped and executed.  Catching the calls translates into more repair orders each month.  Centralizing your calls means higher show rates – typically over 10% per month on average.  Taking a time/mileage approach to each call will drive new revenue into each appointment before the customer shows up.  It will also allow you to properly right-size the time expectation for each appointment.

Bottom-line on this one, get help from an expert in these areas as it will pay massive dividends when done properly.

  1. Types of Service BDC Outsourcing?

Think of this as “all” or “some”.

Outsourcing assistance can come in different shapes and sizes.  One option is to let the calls that hold longer than a minute to roll over to your Service BDC partner.  The calls get answered and the customer gets taken care of properly.

If you don’t want to build your own, and you desire to give time back to your advisors so they can sell and serve customers in real time, then consider outsourcing all appointment calls.

This will allow service advisors the time to fully assist the customers in the service drive while creating a consistent call process.  It also drives an agnostic approach to scheduling, meaning if the time is available in the schedule it can be “sold” to the next caller, regardless of bias on the drive.

As a result, the service department will see more balance to your scheduling during slower times of the day and week.

Over the years, I have found that sometimes it is either who you know or what you know that matters.  But sometimes that just isn’t enough.

Fortunately, I have run into this truth that is an always kind of thing, not a “sometimes” kind of thing…  More important than who or what is WHENIt’s when you know that matters MOST.  Now is the time to catch those calls and load your shop.  It’s the only way to get after retention.

By Karen Rust, Accounts Director Traver Connect

Staffing your BDC requires a strategic plan to be successful.  When you begin to recruit, you should know how many staff are required, potential call volume and the hours that will need to be covered.  This is essential information to get started.  However, there are daily challenges you must consider.  A few of them are addressed below:

  • Training – Ensure your training curriculum and trainer is prepared before you begin the hiring process. This is the first step in a successful BDC setup.  Ongoing training and development will be a must to keep your staff up to date on manufacturers’ products, services and recalls.
  • Day to Day Managing – When managing the day to day activities, you will need to make yourself available throughout the day to address concerns and answer questions. This may affect other duties that have been assigned to you.  Consider having a backup for when you are not in the building such as bad weather, vacation, illness, power outages, etc.
  • Quality Monitoring – This is one of the most important items you will address on a regular basis. You must have a plan in place to monitor the staffs calls and overall performance as your customers are the heartbeat of the business.  Performing quality checks can be time consuming and mundane but it is a critical part of your BDC’s success.
  • Quantity of Calls – Ensuring your staff handles calls in a timely fashion to best serve your customer and the dealership is essential. You will need to monitor the time your staff is available to handle calls to ensure their daily productivity.
  • Staff TurnoverBeing prepared for staff turnover is vital to running a smooth BDC environment. Your customers will be expecting prompt service and calls handled. Your staffing issues should not be their problem.  Consider having a funnel of qualified applicants that you can interview, hire and train quickly to be prepared as your call volume warrants.

As your business grows, running a successful BDC is crucial in continuing to provide the excellent service that your customer has come to expect from your dealership.

 

By Joe Tareen (Technical Analyst Traver Connect)

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!