BDC is one of the most incorrectly overused terms in the automotive retail environment. Far too often, the roles and responsibilities of the employees working in these “business development centers” are doing no developing at all. They are simply communicating with the customers. And there’s the rub.
From what I’ve seen during my limited time training dealers, most that believe they have a BDC have a team of individuals dedicated to answering the phones and sending emails.
Well, someone would have to do that no matter what, so in this instance, you have a business communication center. You’ve created one place where the basic back-and-forth with customers is handled.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of communication is, “A process in which information is exchanged between two individuals.”
While I was in the dealership, I was running a true business development center. The definition of development is “The act of improving, expanding, or refining.” My BDC team had responsibilities that far exceeded the realm of basic email and phone unsold follow up communication that is so customary in many other dealerships.
A BDC must do more. They must develop business…on their own…on behalf of the dealership…by being proactive…with sales and service customers. A business development center creates its own opportunities while a business communication center simply handles the normal dealership interaction that others within the store can handle themselves.
Your typical BCC team will handle inbound calls, manage inbound leads, respond to those leads, make outbound Internet calls, and set appointments from each of those avenues.
A BDC team should do everything above and more. It should follow up on behalf of the floor’s salespeople with calls to their unsold customers. This call can be done under the veil of a “customer satisfaction manager” call, asking questions about the customer’s in-store experience just a few days prior with the attempt to bring them back in for an appointment.
A BDC should also make post-sale follow up on behalf of each individual salesperson. Know that this doesn’t exclude the salesperson from making their own thank you call, but it should be done in addition to ensure no customer is unhappy with their experience. You can’t rely on your sales team, not only to make the call, but to be truthful about what the customer stated. A second voice on the phone is always a good idea.
At the same time, I feel it is the salesperson’s responsibility to ask for referrals. Provided the salesperson has built the rapport they should have with their sold customer, it is easier to extract referrals if the customer trusts the person they are talking to rather than someone they haven’t met.
You should be actively marketing to your database through both phone and e-mail communication. There is no better way to do this than having your team handle upcoming loan and lease expiration calls. Calls to lease and loan ending clients of the dealership were very prevalent several years ago, but I think they have gone away over time. And that is unfortunate. There is no better client to earn than a loyal one you are keeping. Make sure that you have a team and process in place to make calls to these valuable customers.
Not only should is your business development center your first line of defense when a prospect call or email in, but they should also be the backstop of the dealership. No customer should ever be marked “lost,” “inactive,” “upside down in trade,” “unable to finance,” or “bought elsewhere” unless another member from your dealership, namely someone from your BDC, has reached out and tried one last time. You need your team to play the role of first and last person to touch each opportunity when possible.
Recognizing that a real business development center is the voice of the dealership on every inbound/most outbound calls, make sure you use them in such a way. While I was managing my BDC, we didn’t only manage the customer relationships inside the dealership, but managed the dealership’s brand outside it as well. I’m a firm believer in investing your time in the local community. We executed many grassroots marketing campaigns where I sent out my staff out into the public (and usually accompanied) to work events. From shaking hands, giving out little give-aways and tchotchkes, running contests, setting up booths at fairs, and attending multiple chamber of commerce meetings — there was not much my BDC team wasn’t able to handle. If they can be the voice of the dealership and are trained, not only on scripts, but product knowledge and customer service initiatives, there is nothing they cannot handle. This is what I consider true business development.
So either require more from your business development center personnel or start calling them a business communication center. Don’t overpay for someone just because they can handle a script, send out well-worded e-mails, or exchange information between two parties. If you are going to pay a premium for “development,” make it worth it. Make them sound in the art of improving, expending, and refining. That is development.