Traver Connect | Management-Leadership
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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By Rob Canales – VP of Product Development and Marketing

Happy New Year!  Since many folks are just coming back to the office from the holidays I think today is the perfect time to introduce this wise topic.  SMART Goals.  If you haven’t heard this acronym, or even if you need to dust off the egg nog and reacquaint yourself with SMART, here’s the idea and breakdown:

SMART goals, whether for business or personal use, are a method to thoughtfully plan achievements or goals that you have chosen for focus.  This framework is intended to guide you intelligently through goal-setting to give you the best shot at reaching those goals.  So here we go!

Specific – Zero in on your goals, don’t be vague or you’ll risk missing them.  Provide details so you don’t miss any angles.

Measurable – Your goals should be quantifiable otherwise you risk giving yourself slack and settling for a half-hearted result.  For example, I want to eat more fish vs. I will each fish 3 times a week.

Achievable/Attainable – Your goal should push you but not be so lofty that you have no realistic shot at it.  You may need to break up results into a stair-step by week, by month, by quarter, etc. to help you grow consistently and realistically without risking burnout.

Relevant – This is all about “why”.  Get real about your goal targets and ensure they are truly meaningful to you and not some popular fad that is sure to wane.

Time-Bound – You must have some date targets/parameters to guide your efforts and help you to answer “when”.  This is critical, a little, plus a little, plus a little, equals a lot over the long haul.

Don’t be flippant about your goals, give them plenty of thought, factoring in your tendencies, your determination/perseverance level, and where you have already decided you want to be.  So let’s identify your goals, measure them up against the SMART guideposts, and get after it!

Lack of Service Management and Advisor Buy-in.

Often top level leadership will make a decision to hire an outside Service BDC or create an internal one, because the assumption here is that advisors will be better off building a one on one relationship with customers and should not be bothered by a constant barrage of incoming call rings. This is absolutely the correct assumption and the right mindset. However, often this high level mindset is not properly communicated downstream to the service management or the entire service drive team. The result is a lack of a buy-in from the most critical group of people who are affected by this decision. When phones stop ringing for new business, advisors often feel like they are at the mercy of a third party for their earnings. A few examples here include, the ability to control their work load is taken away, some advisors will also not like the fact that they cannot cherry pick their customers (thankfully those advisors are usually in a small minority). Additionally some service managers will dislike the idea of giving a third party control of their shop loading operations, especially the ones who have clear and strong ideas on how to run their shops tightly. These are legitimate concerns which can turn into inter-departmental conflicts which then can have real effects on your bottom line. However, there is good news. These potential conflicts can be nipped in the bud before they fully blossom into full-blown crisis. Here is how: Involve your entire Service Management team and at least one lead advisor early on during the Service BDC discovery process. You will not only get their buy-in, but will also identify early detractors and potential problem creators. Bottom line is engaging your Service drive team early on will help to create a sense of ownership and allow them to have some skin-in-the-game.


Not the right Scheduler

On many occasions scheduling an appointment requires more complexity than a set of features available inside a typical web-based scheduler. It is important to truly assess your needs in relations to your customer base type and your profit goals. Selecting schedulers which do not fulfill your operational objectives, whether clearly spelled out or otherwise expressed via your day to day actions, may create a substantial gap between your revenue objectives and actual results. Also asking your service BDC agents to go beyond what can be achieved inside your chosen scheduler, may, from time to time, cause mistakes to happen which ultimately results in friction between your service drive and your service BDC.  This is not good and counter-productive. Get the scheduler which works well for both units with a good understanding of its capabilities and restrains. This will create alignment of business goals.


Not the right Business Development Manager (BDM).

One of the reasons why a service BDC may fail is a person who is not qualified is given responsibilities to launch and run it. One of the first requirements of managing a Service BDC should be good people skills which are inevitably tied to good communication skills. Service BDC operations are a contact sport all the way around. A BDM needs to be the conduit between your Service BDC agents and Service Drive team. Additionally, they must have the ability to logically and technically explain the “whys” behind your scheduling, loaners, rentals, recalls and pricing policies. The BDM needs to be a sufficient trainer, good coach, and needs to have the ability to hold his or her team accountable for results, himself/herself included. In addition, the BDM must be confident in every aspect of their job, which means they should spend sufficient time on the drive with advisors, and should be trained to personally take any inbound or outbound call duties as the business requires. As a side note, your Service BDC team will also benefit from the practice of new agents when hired, spending at least day or two with the Service Drive team to really taste the ‘dog food’.


Not clearly defining Service BDC Role & Expectations

Another reason why your Service BDC may fail is because different people within the same organization may hold different opinions as to why the Service BDC exists in the first place. For instance the Service Manager may assume the Service BDC works for his team’s convenience. Whereas, the General Manager may think the Service BDC exists because we were not capturing enough opportunities and putting too many restrictions on same-day appointments. One can see how a Service Manager who is more concerned with getting the ‘work-out’ would hold a completely different opinion on the true purpose of a Service BDC than the General Manager who is interested in getting more ‘work-in’. This does not happen at every dealership, however it is a common occurrence in the industry. Both are valid business positions coming from two different perspectives. This is why it is absolutely imperative that expectations are laid early on as to the reason why a dealership chooses to invest in a Service BDC and what exactly is the goal of that Service BDC. This must be agreed upon by all parties and documented for future use/education/re-education. Clearly defining the common objectives of the Service BDC is paramount, especially noting what it can do as well as what it cannot do. One thing worth mentioning here is that a Service BDC cannot fulfill the role of a dispatcher. An agent should not be encumbered with too many rules to account for just to book a simple service appointment. Get the customer in, train your service advisor to manage the expectations of the visit, and keep the machine moving. Leave yourself with enough room to maneuver and fulfill your OEM CSI obligations. It can be balanced, have confidence in your team to collaborate and deliver.


Lack of in-depth reporting and ROI.

The final piece to this puzzle sounds almost cliché based on how many times we all have heard it, but it’s worth repeating: “You cannot manage what you cannot measure”. If we were to mention one simple item to help dealers understand why reporting is so critical in identifying a true return on investment, it would be this: Take the total number of calls answered by your Service BDC in a month and divide by the total monthly cost of your Service BDC. If the number is higher than what a third-party is willing to take your calls for, then you better question the existence of your Service BDC and look for other options. Again its opportunity cost. Would you get more bang for your buck somewhere else? However, at the same time do not make a decision solely based on cost factors. Consider other intangibles which may bring unseen benefits to your Fixed Operations as well as your customers. Get granular with your Service BDC operational data. For instance: How well are your agents educating your customers on OEM recommended services? How efficient are your agents in taking calls per hour? What is the call count gap between the most productive agent and the least productive agent? What is your most productive agent doing different then your least productive agent? What can your organization learn from this gap? There are nuggets there, if you choose to look. So, be curious and don’t be afraid to ask questions, because if you don’t you will fail. We don’t want you to fail. We want you to not only succeed by thrive.

“Catching the call” is the primary objective for Service BDCs. It’s the main reason they are launched, first and foremost, in the minds of service managers and GMs alike. That’s still valid, however, there’s another priority that is just as important, and in fact, it already is with many the OEMs. I’m talking about retention through outbound programs.  More and more automakers are finally acting on the realization that it’s far less costly, and makes much more sense, to sell to a repeat customer than buying (through advertising) a new one.  Besides that, with a plateauing sales environment, conquest sales will be casting a much wider net geographically, making it more challenging than ever to lure those out-of-area sales back to the selling dealer for service… and ultimately their next vehicle purchase.


Plateauing sales mean that Fixed Ops will be carrying more and more of the revenue load. In order to do that, dealers will need to create or expand their Service BDC’s outbound efforts… efforts to convince newly sold and existing customers to return for service. Problem is, most service BDCs are so consumed with fielding daily inbound traffic, much of which are non-appointment calls, that their outbound effort becomes little more than an afterthought.  Simply put, they are too overwhelmed with inbound to even consider outbound.

So, what happens to the outbound, follow-up efforts? Truth is those efforts aren’t going to ever be made at worst, and at best, just partially or poorly made is the likely scenario.

Additionally, most service BDCs have not recruited, trained and managed agents with the specific skill sets required to entice past sold customers to return for service.  Frankly it’s a much tougher sell than the inbound call. Instead, many service BDCs attempt to draw from their original inbound group, usually a team totally steeped with inbound skills, to then switch back and forth between inbound appointment calls and outbound retention (sales) calls. Management assumes that the same inbound agent can handle outbound calls with a high rate of success.  That’s a mistake! If tapping existing inbound agents to convert to an outbound mode is the best you can do, you should strongly consider finding a better way. Here’s why, the 2018 Cox Automotive Service Industry Study reveals that 74% of those sold customers who returned for service in the first 12 months were 74% more likely to return for their next purchase …versus a 35% return purchase rate for those who did not return for service. Those stats should get every store GM’s attention, not to mention you’re simply robbing Peter to pay Paul and now you’re back to missing inbound calls again.  Yikes!


Below are a few imperatives Traver Connect recommends to facilitate and solve the outbound initiative.  They are also largely applicable to success with your inbound model.

A leadership commitment (store GM & service management) to allocate the resources necessary for a dedicated outbound solution.

This is going to be a tough pill to swallow but this is the simple truth – You cannot make outbound pencil at the dealership level, period.  You can target manifest lists as short term projects and have a modicum of success as far as completion goes, but a true outbound solution is a much larger elephant to eat.  Here’s why, there are far too many attempts required to effect any kind of reasonable rate of return, and dealer leadership will quickly come to realize this is accounting quicksand.  Trust me on this – find an outsourced solution and get down the road!  You can’t compete with the scale of a true call center (many BDC agents on the OB team), nor the sophisticated platform required to churn through customer records in an intelligent, automated, and in rapid-fire succession.  You can buy this lesson the hard way but I assure you it’s a very costly lesson if you try to hire, train, and pay for outbound yourself. 

The above notwithstanding, if you dare to tackle OB yourself, creating a specific training curriculum for the outbound team is a must.

As mentioned above, the outbound agent needs to possess the ability to think beyond the appointment…to not only possess interpersonal skills, but closing skills and investigative abilities as well.  That can be a challenge for the training group who spend most of their time teaching and coaching inbound agents.  Call scripts, left messages, emails and texts have to be much more compelling.  You also have to provide tools for gathering feedback you’re going to stumble upon during the call that is very valuable to the dealership.  This is a huge miss if you don’t capture it.  If you’ve ever done live outbound, you know what I’m talking about.

Place a huge emphasis on “relationship development” for outbound, just as you do for catching the calls for inbound calls

Some of you might be thinking you can get through to the next sales cycle by just dropping emails or direct mail every now and then.  The other hard-hitting truth is that you can’t nurture/maintain a customer relationship this way.  A real touch, or “live interaction”, is required for meaningful customer relationship management for your owner base (ironically not software by the same name).  Think about it this way, when was the last time you sent your wife or mom an email/text message on Mother’s day instead of flowers and chocolates?  Forget about it!  You have to earn the relationship, and it requires a live interaction.

Developing an outbound culture based on cultivating the relationship is much tougher than just scheduling service.  “Reminder” calls will deliver a certain amount of success, but not near that of a service “relationship call”, some of which are targeting customers who purposefully bypassed/defected from your service department.

Can your leadership commit to the above imperatives for a successful “outbound” retention effort? It’s an old adage in dealership culture that nothing happens until someone sells something but there’s an unknown saying that should accompany that…nothing happens to turn that sold customer into a customer for life until you successfully invite them back.