Service BDC 2.0… Developing “Customers for Life” with Outbound Programs!


“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.