Did we go too far with BDCs?

BDCs are limping around their final lap in dealerships today. Saddled with the task of handling one of the dealership’s most valuable assets with the lowest paid and least experienced staff, they were destined for failure. Dealers have been handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars in leads to BDC departments with little to no training and experience.

The extremely valuable asset of in-market car shoppers is wasted in many stores when shoppers want more information before they show up for an appointment than the BDC can provide. Why do we make it so hard for consumers to buy cars? Today’s car shoppers want to know details about the potential transaction, and many BDCs are simply not equipped – and in many cases not permitted – to provide this information. The customer engagement center will quickly replace the BDC in dealerships across the country. The BDC’s day has past. Or did BDCs ever really have a day? BDCs were designed with a couple of fatal flaws that truly made it impossible for them to succeed.

BDC staff is among the least trained and lowest paid in the dealership. They are also the first contact and first impression that many customers have with the dealership. In the beginning, providing customers with minimal information and driving them all to an appointment at the dealership worked alright. Today’s car shopper demands more and wants to know payment and other information that most BDCs cannot or will not provide. This is the first fatal flaw. The second is the BDC pay plan. BDC employees are bonus-based on appointments showing. This leads them to force appointments on people who have not had all their questions answered and are not sold on visiting the dealership yet. This is one of the main reasons why 50% or fewer of appointments show. It is easier to agree to a time with no intention of going than to get the BDC representative off the phone. Armed with an appointment a few days away, the BDC rep leaves the customer alone to shop other dealerships. Have you ever called a customer that missed an appointment only to learn that she bought a car a day earlier at another store? To make real appointments that customers will actually plan on keeping, the TO from the BDC to the sales department needs to take place earlier. This is where the customer engagement center comes in to play.

Employees of the CEC will make the initial contact with the customer and perform the initial information gathering. Once this is complete and the customer begins to ask for information that only the sales department can provide – such as payments, interest rates, and trade values – the CEC TOs this customer to a sales person. In this situation the customer is guided into the dealership by a salesperson that has the complete information needed to convince the customer to visit the dealership. In most other businesses there are inside and outside salespeople. The inside sales reps handle all incoming communications and inquiries. The outside salespeople do product demonstrations and close deals. Think of the CEC reps as inside sales that sift through all the potential opportunities and pass the good ones on to outside salespeople to close. Your salespeople would love to only deal with people ready to discuss buying a vehicle. Wasn’t this the original thought process behind BDCs to begin with?

When converting your BDC to a CEC, the first thing to do is get buy-in from both the BDC and salespeople…invite them to discuss the best customer experience, interaction with both departments, and how to achieve this. You will be surprised that once they point fingers for a few minutes they will actually agree. The BDC/CEC reps want to collect information and provide basic information to shoppers. Once the interaction graduates to financial issues they will want to turn it over to sales. Guess what? The sales people want to control this part of the exchange as well. Both groups will agree that this is the best time for a TO. Now to the pay plan. Your CEC reps should be bonused on successful TOs and ultimately on delivered units. Everyone needs to be working toward the common goal – cars over the curb burning gas.

**Your new CEC reps will hand off to your sales people the shoppers who are ready to work a car deal.

Your sales people will spend all of their time with shoppers that are ready to buy.

Your CEC reps and your sales people will be happier and, more importantly, your customers will be happier. **

The customer experience at your dealership will improve with this new process. Your customers will be working with the right person every step from shopping through delivery.