Traver Connect | Retention
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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“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.

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 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 Kristin Honderick, Account Manager, Traver Connect

A single customer experience can influence your business up or down dramatically these days.  Word travels quickly with the use of social media and/or reviews so the “reality” of your customer experience is subject to subjectivity.  Fair or not!  There are multiple factors that contribute to someone’s experience and likelihood to return.  It all begins with the first contact, whether we’re on the phone or in person, and progresses from there.  Here are some factors that will influence customers’ odds of returning:

  • Do you have a trained Service BDC staff?
  • How quickly was the phone answered or customer greeted in person?
  • Was the customer greeted in a friendly manner?
  • Were their needs properly assessed?
  • Were proper recommendations made?
  • Were their needs/expectations met?
  • Did the customer feel:
    • Acknowledged?
    • Valued?
    • Ignored?
    • Taken advantage of?

Here is an example of how trust is eroded and the opportunity for retention is blown:

I visited my local OEM dealership for a simple oil change. I was told that I needed additional services (transmission and coolant fluid services), which came to about $300 dollars. Later I was called by my service advisor and told that due to the transmission leaking, they would not recommend the transmission fluid service, so I agreed to wait until a later date to have those services completed.  When I arrived at the dealership, I was informed my total due came to $300.  They had still completed the transmission service anyway and I had to pay for it!

Long story short, I was upset and felt like I have been swindled by that service advisor so he could make an additional buck.  I had the expectation of only paying for the coolant service and oil change. I complained and was not contacted by the service manager.  I’m now unwilling to have any future dealings with this place because I’ve simply lost trust and I’m not willing to give them another chance – ever.

Moral of the story; mistakes are COMMON but stepping up and making things right is all-to-often UNCOMMON.  If you make a mistake own it, recover quickly, and give yourself a shot at a future retention opportunity – your business depends on it.

By John Traver, CEO, Traver Connect

It’s a word that is tossed around often and much, but “retention” is still “THE word”.

How else can our industry sum up the simple business principle of repeat purchases with the same customer? Whatever the answer to that question, I’d subscribe to the standby of former great Yankee ‘Closer’ Mariano Rivera, which was “simple is best”.  Once a vehicle has been sold, the entire dealership’s objective is retention of that vehicle in service.

So what stands in the way of retention for most dealers today? It can be a number of things. Let’s start with a few falsehoods or myths that I too often see.

Myth #1: CSI = Retention

Customer satisfaction can improve retention, but it isn’t the same as nor will it equate to retention.  Let that sink in. Happy customers do not equal loyal customers.

Harvard Business Review wrote a piece on this a few years back around the concept of having to “delight” each and every customer.  It’s a great objective, but it might not be realistic for every dealership.  Their question was simple: How often do you patronize a business simply because of its over-the-top service?  You’ll probably think of an example or two, but you won’t likely come up with many.

But… If I ask you when the last time you cut a company loose because of its bad service, that answer will come quickly.  Was it an airline that lost your luggage? A dry cleaner that didn’t understand what “rush” meant when you clearly told them?

Consumers are punitive – that is, they punish bad service all the time.  And here is the comparator, they punish bad service MORE than they reward great service.  We have loads of data on this and the information is compelling.  But most of us won’t need to see the data because our instinct already has confirmed this is true.

The “Churn” Highway

Churn happens in many channels of business exchange and support.  For Zappos, one area of churn they manage against is to allow returns of shoes to be made at any time and at no cost.  That’s putting all your chips on the table in my opinion.

The trend of churn across virtually every industry plays itself out in two areas more frequently than all of the others.  So let’s look at those two and see if they impact automotive service and our hope for retention.

The first area is any industry where a service is provided in a phone-call related channel.  For automotive service, this means when the customer calls to schedule service and the service delivered is perceived as helpful, friendly and prompt, the service will be perceived as positive and acceptable.  But if this service channel contains perceived friction, such as long hold times, inattentive personnel or even a low-value exchange, the customer becomes a high risk to choosing a different vendor.  In automotive service space, you’ll need to execute a plan that gets your service calls answered properly, professionally and consistently in order to limit churn.

The second channel that sees a very high level of churn in any industry is one that involves face-to-face service.  This essentially becomes the next moment of truth where your customer is now with your service advisor and they are making assessments, either good or bad based upon how they are being handled.  If service advisors are still taking calls in the drive while trying to assist customer, this can be a put-off.

Also, when they communicate and drop the vehicle off, is the communication exchange easy for the customer? Texting is the preferred form of communication by customers for updates on their vehicle while in service.  Do your advisors have a texting tool or do they play phone tag still?

And when it comes time to pay for the completed repair or maintenance, have you made this easy? Do you offer mobile pay or do you lean on your cashier to do this?

The easiest way to measure churn is look for the obvious friction points first.

Is your dealership missing service calls? Better check.

Does it have hold times when trying to reach service?  Again, better check.

Is the show rate of appointments being tracked and is it acceptable?  Again, look for this metric.

Is there value being provided to the customer on the call or is it a low-touch experience?  Make a call and listen to your own product-you’ll know quickly.

Retention is best measured in repeat visits.  Make sure you are tracking this metric.  Retention drives market share or absorption, whichever side of the aisle you look at this from.  Either way, it will mean more RO’s.  And more RO’s will tee-up the next vehicle sale – without an additional acquisition cost.

Retention deserves attention.