Fixed Ops And BDCs: Why Not Use Them For Outbound Calls, Too?
Service departments need a variety of outreach on which a well-managed BDC could prove helpful. BY CHUCK WENZLER
Business development centers (BDCs) are not, of course, a new concept. Dealerships have used them for years to assist in driving sales and growing the variable side of their business.
However, only in recent years has the concept of a BDC for fixed operations has become popular. Service departments have started to utilize a BDC mainly to control inbound call volume.
Meanwhile, many service advisors have become so overwhelmed with phone calls that they are unable to spend the appropriate amount of time on the service drive taking care of customers who are on-site. This has seriously affected their ability to perform two primary job duties: sales of services and customer satisfaction.
Now, service BDCs have greatly assisted in controlling incoming calls, but what about outbound calls? Could the BDC help out the fixed-ops department with certain calls? Absolutely. With proper staff training and tools, a BDC staff could become very beneficial to service, parts and collision center businesses.
Service Appointments And Maintenance Milestones
Most obviously, a BDC would be useful working on outbound reminder calls for service appointments. How many service advisors regularly contact their customers to remind them about an upcoming appointment? Letting the BDC handle that task would improve both call frequency and show rates. And, if it turns out the customer is unable to keep a service appointment, then the BDC staffer, who has access to the appointment-scheduling system, could reschedule it right away.
Also, the BDC is in a good position to contact customers whose vehicles may be approaching a factory required maintenance interval. In that scenario, the service manager would provide the BDC with a list of customers whose vehicles are approaching a 15,000-mile, 30,000-mile or other maintenance milestone. A personal call from the BDC representative would help emphasize the customer’s need to maintain the vehicle and protect his or her investment. Once again, the BDC caller could then schedule the appointment, helping to keep the shop filled.
Special-Order Parts and Recalls
A fixed-ops group also can call in a BDC to contact customers regarding the arrival of special-order parts. Here, the parts or service department, or collision center would message the BDC that the part has arrived and ask that the customer be contacted to arrange for its installation. With the scheduling of an appointment and follow-up calls made when needed, the special order parts shelves are much less likely to become overloaded and the likelihood of wasted spending is greatly reduced.
Remember, too, that service departments can become overwhelmed by phone traffic when an auto manufacturer announces a recall. Not only would the BDC be beneficial in managing the inbound calls from owners, but also its staff could take a helpful proactive approach. The BDC representatives would phone customers, provide helpful information about the recall program and schedule service appointments. The manufacturers generally provide manifest lists or have them available.
Extra Work From A Multi-Point Inspection
Most service departments do a good job in performing multi-point inspections and providing the owner with a report card on the vehicle’s overall condition. Suppose, however, that the inspection determines the car’s condition requires attention over and above why the customer brought it to the service drive. More service work may really be needed, either immediately or in the near future.
Should the customer decline to have the additional repairs or services performed at the time, another useful role for a BDC emerges. The call center personnel could phone the customer to remind them about the additional needed work and try to schedule a service appointment. I find it a best practice to contact the customer about the declined items within 72 hours of the original visit, and not to wait longer.
While the customer often will turn down the work with the excuse that money is tight or the work too expensive, often what that really means is: “I don’t really trust you so I am going to shop you.” Waiting longer than 72 hours simply gives that customer ample opportunity shop the work and line up another shop to handle the repairs or services your team recommended. The maintenance needs to be performed by someone; why shouldn’t it be the dealership that actually identified the problem, and why shouldn’t that dealership be assertive about seeking the work?
Wholesale Customers, Collision Estimates, Service Surveys
A parts manager could utilize the BDC’s help in expanding his department’s wholesale business. The BDC staff could be tasked with contacting potential wholesale customers. During that outreach, they could provide information regarding the full range of products and services offered by the parts department. Or, they could at least help the outside salespeople by identifying the proper contact at the repair facility and scheduling an appointment for the salesperson.
Another potential beneficiary of a BDC’s assistance is the collision center. The BDC staff could follow up on estimates that were written but not closed, assisting the collision center in increasing its estimate-closing ratio. Here, the collision center manager presumably would provide the BDC with customer contact information, and later review outcomes of the calls with the BDC supervisor. If necessary, the collision center manager could then follow up personally with the customer to answer questions and address concerns.
Many managers of service, parts and collision have struggled to persuade their advisors, counter people and estimators consistently follow up with customers regarding their opinion of the levels of service provided and satisfaction. Why not have the BDC team make these calls? The BDC team could thank the customer for the business, gauge his or her level of satisfaction and provide feedback to the managers. When necessary, those managers could follow up personally with the customer in order to preserve the relationship.
Don’t Let A BDC Operate Without A Script
Across all of these activities, I generally am a believer in providing the BDC people with phone scripts for outbound calls. It is essential that the caller speaks professionally and be consistent in with the manner and tone of outbound calls. That person is an extension of the dealership, whether the BDC is in-house or a third-party organization.
So, the manager of the fixed-ops department for which the calls are being made should be an active participant in creating and approving scripts. That manager also should participate in training the callers and in role-playing to help sharpen their customer communications.
Utilized properly and having received the proper training and tools, a fixed operations BDC can prove a valuable asset with outbound calls. The BDC can help keep your service drive filled, trigger additional sales, and improve customer relations and satisfaction. In fact, an effectively operated BDC is far more than a call center; it is also a sales center.
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