What Is a BDC for Automotive Dealerships and How Should It Be Used?

In the automotive industry, leads, referrals, and sales are being driven by phone calls more than ever before. These activities have been taken care of by the sales team historically, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they’re worthy of specialized resources. 

The simple truth is that 16% of customer calls are never answered. This represents a huge loss of revenue considering that 80% of customers don’t bother to leave a voicemail as they’re already on to the next dealership. And when calls are answered, 63% say there was no request for an appointment, and 66% report no contact information was collected.

The solution for the auto industry in response to these trends is the business development center (or BDC). Automotive professionals are relying more and more on these specialized departments to handle communication tasks that have traditionally been delegated to the sales team. Here’s everything you need to know to leverage one of these revenue-driving systems. 

What Is a BCD?

Every customer interaction represents the possibility of generating revenue, whether it’s setting an appointment, answering questions, building a relationship with good service, or getting a referral. Every missed call represents a potential loss, and if a salesperson can’t pick up the phone, everyone in the dealership takes a hit. 

A BDC is a dedicated call center of skilled phone agents who make sure every revenue opportunity at your dealership is capitalized on. When a call comes in, they use scripts and strategies to identify what sales possibilities exist and route them accordingly.  

These centers also coordinate information like referrals and appointments and send them to the sales team. When they are properly trained and supported with well-written scripts and materials, a BDC can create incredible returns on the investment by streamlining your business and maximizing the value of your phones. 

Should I Start My Own, or Outsource My BDC?

Automotive success depends on getting customers what they need while you’ve actually got their attention. Since phone service is so critical to quality lead generation, in-house solutions are frequently the best choice. While it’s possible to hire a partner, these agencies often don’t generate the success dealerships need to deliver consistent revenue. 

Here are some of the problems outsourcing BDC activities can bring:

  • They don’t have the same level of investment in your business as you and your team do.
  • They’re interested in hitting KPI metrics, but they might target low-hanging fruit instead of the really important opportunities because it’s much easier to convince you they’re doing a great job. 
  • They likely service multiple dealerships, meaning your customers’ experience will be indistinguishable from the competition. 
  • You have very little control over the tone, quality, and attentiveness of the customer service.
  • 74% of callers are inquiring about parts or services, which are important high-margin areas of your business. Third-party BDC automotive knowledge may be sadly deficient (they’re nice people, but not usually automotive professionals), so it makes sense to keep these calls in-house.

How Should I Structure My BDC?

Automotive solutions are highly dependent on your community trends, the size of your dealership, and the volume of customer contacts you handle. It could be as little as a single employee or a coordinated team of several. Perhaps it’s a new department or a build-out of your current customer service team.

Regardless of scope, here’s how to set up a BDC automotive dealers can count on to grow their business.  

1. Make a Plan

First things first: we recommend your BDC be available to your customers seven days a week for at least twelve hours a day. That may seem like a lot, but remember: this is about capturing as many leads as you can, so your BDC needs to be open when people have time to call.

Plan on each team member taking about 70 incoming calls a day while making about 140 outbound inquiries. Of these, a bare minimum of 50% of your incoming calls should result in an appointment being scheduled, versus 25% of outbound calls. Of course, the best teams will put up much higher numbers!

2. Creating Your Materials

The most important part of developing your BDC is the creation of phone scripts they can use to identify opportunities, answer common questions, and direct traffic to maximize returns. Scripts need to be written and fine-tuned, initial and ongoing training programs developed, and KPIs identified that ensure you can accurately measure the efficiency of your BDC automotive team.

You can write these materials yourself, but it’s usually a good idea to outsource these activities to professionals. It takes a deep understanding of phone interactions to dial them in for your business, and if you get them wrong…

…it’s going to cost you much more than the price of hiring an expert!

3. Set Up the Office

Next, you’ll need to dedicate a work area and acquire the tools and equipment your team will need, such as: 

  • A web-based CRM system—this allows you to operate with less-expensive computers and keeps your data safe.
  • Appropriate computers/printers/headsets/etc. to run the web system quickly and efficiently—can’t keep customers waiting because of laggy software and hardware.
  • Office furniture and quality-of-living amenities for your team (like coffee!).
  • A reliable and fast internet connection.
  • Word processing and spreadsheet software.
  • Necessary office supplies.

Finally, don’t shove these folks into a basement or broom closet! If you wouldn’t be comfortable working eight hours a day in a given space, don’t expect your employees to, either. With happy people staffing your BDC automotive department, your first point of contact with customers has a much higher chance of being pleasant and memorable. 

4. Hire the Right People

Yes, the labor market is tight now, but your BDC is not a place for compromise—especially when it comes to hiring a manager. The attitude of the whole BDC automotive team will be set by this person, so don’t settle. Also, compensation should be paid on a production basis, not a straight salary. Hungry people hunt best!

In addition to everything you’d expect from a great employee, your rank-and-file staff need to be outgoing, friendly, cheerful people who can maintain their composure under any circumstances. They need to be coachable and open to self-improvement. 

And speaking of coaching, you’re probably not going to want to do this yourself. First, you have enough on your plate just from organizing your BDC. Second, this is a highly tactical environment that requires specialized training you probably don’t have time to learn for yourself. In fact, the people who helped you write your scripts are often the best choice to train your new department. After all, they know the scripts backward and forward and understand how they should be delivered. 

Get the Right Partner for the Job

As you can see, this is an enormous amount of work, and without a knowledgeable and experienced partner, setting up a BDC that can change your business may be a bridge too far.

This is where Phone Ninjas can help! We’re tried-and-true phone trainers who offer great scripts to guide your BDC automotive team and ensure every customer receives the same high level of service. We coach your people in supportive one-on-one sessions over time so everything becomes second nature.

We also do our own mystery shops to make certain your team is implementing the training, as well as following up with shopped employees to correct deficiencies. Our thorough program results in our clients converting incoming calls to appointments at a 60% rate (the industry average is only 28%), with some dedicated clients hitting 80%!

Reach out to Phone Ninjas today so we can drastically reduce the workload associated with starting your BDC and get your team delivering results!

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