Essential BDC Tools
BDC has essential tools? ABSOLUTELY! Every manufacturer with which we are familiar has an essential tool list for technicians. The dealership must maintain, inventory, and be accountable for this list on a yearly basis, or they are subject to non-payment of warranty claims. Almost everyone familiar with Fixed Ops is familiar with this concept. But we have never seen an essential tool list for Advisors or BDC Consultants. You would never ask a technician to do a job without the proper tools, would you? And furthermore, you would not ask a technician to insure the proper use of a tool that they did not know how to use. Yet, on a daily basis, we ask other positions within the store to do just that; to perform their job properly without knowledge of the proper tools. Seems logical? With that same thought in mind, there are “essential tools” that the BDC Consultant must have, and know how to properly use, if we expect them to do their job properly. The following is a list of essential tools for an effective Service Department BDC. The following list can also be a good starting point for an Advisor essential tool list. The list is not all inclusive, but is considered a basic “must have” list:
- Courtesy Inspection
- Maintenance Menus
- Quick Reference Pricing Guides
- Service Pricing Guides
- BDC Hot List (things that should be immediately “flipped” to an Advisor)
- BDC Immediate List (things that should be handled immediately, regardless of the schedule)
- Recall Parts Availability Board
- A current Advisor list, to include the employee number, extension number, number of appointments per day.
Establishing Your Current Call Volume
Establishing call volume, by the time of day, is essential to ensuring proper staffing of a Service Department BDC, especially from the start. This process may require outside help, but many phone systems have the ability to record this information for you. The first step this author has always found useful is to contact the Information Technology (IT) person for the facility; chances are good that they will know how to get a report or who to call for it. This information, at times, can be dissected down to departmental and even extension level. By obtaining this information, you can determine how many people you need to man the phones at any given time. In general terms, for example, a BDC Consultant can make ten calls an hour effectively. Effectively being the key word.
Developing a Call Flow Chart
Equally as important is the need to determine how calls are currently routed and what routings will be necessary, to make the process as customer friendly as possible. There are many phone systems available today, but it basically boils down to an automated or live operator. If it is automated, should all Service calls go through the BDC initially and then be forwarded to an Advisor if necessary? Or should there be two prompts for Service: One for the Service Department, and one for setting appointments? If you utilize a live operator, it becomes easy for a BDC operator to ask what a customer’s specific need is without getting too involved and making the customer feel like they have to repeat themselves. A well thought-out word track can be very effective to maintain consistency when operators change through out the day. The operator may be different, but the level of service does not change. Some consideration should be given to as many scenarios as possible, for example: What if the advisor gets an appointment call; should they handle it or transfer it to BDC? Even though that seems like a “no-brainer,” there are many cases in which the customer will be transferred all over the dealership before their need is satisfied. Most of us have been on the other end of that call, where we are just waiting for someone to take ownership of our situation and to help us. If we know how frustrating this is, why do we then do that to our customers? Customer convenience and comfort level with the flow of communications; these elements should be the main barometer for determining efficient communications.
Developing Word Tracks
As in the case of the operator, word tracks are also the best way to ensure that the level of service does not change from one employee to the next. Although word tracks are talked about in the Sales Department all the time, we rarely talk about them in Fixed Ops. But the fact is that we can all use word tracks. Many times they are phrases we have said so many times, that they are stated with little attention to or thought about what we are actually saying. The problem is that many of these word tracks are really not well thought out, and are rarely consistent with the person next to us doing the same thing. Needless to say, an effective BDC needs to have designated/defined word tracks for every given situation. You may find it beneficial, and time sensitive, to create your basic “Setting Appointment” word track first, and then build the rest of the word tracks around that initial track. After all, the objective of almost every call that a Service Department BDC will handle is to set an appointment. We have included a list of situations to consider as a thought process starter; you may need to consider creating additional word tracks in your specific store. The list includes, but is not limited to:
- Incoming calls: Appointments, status inquiries and SOP inquiries
- Outgoing calls: Appointment confirmations, “no-show” appointment follow-ups, SOP notifications, recall notifications, follow-ups on Lost Service Sales (unsold ASR’s), and recapturing of those “lost souls.”
Developing Follow-up Letters
Even though most BDC communications will be on the telephone (and concurrent), there will be times when we will need to correspond with a customer through a mailer, or even E-mail. When designing your mailers, the presentation should be professional, attractive and have an eye-catching appearance. You want to make sure that your mailer is not just another piece of junk mail tossed into the trash without being read. Nothing that is “tossed at first sight” is ever effective. The following are some of the examples for which a mailer is appropriate for use:
- SOP Notification
- Recall notification
- Follow-up on Lost Service Sales (unsold ASR’s)
- Recapturing of Lost Souls
Nothing in a dealership, or in life for that matter, happens consistently without a process! So in keeping with this fact, it is essential that we create, document, and train an effective process for virtually every aspect of the BDC. When creating a process it is necessary to identify who will be responsible to perform the process, how often and when the process should be performed, and when necessary, how the information will be gathered. Every process, when possible, should have a “checks and balances” element built into it. As with any process implemented, it is what you do “the day after implementation to sustain it” that matters. We have also found it very beneficial to involve the people responsible for the process, when writing the process. Then evaluate the process after 30-60 days to ensure it is accomplishing its purpose. The following is a list of processes to consider:
- Appointment Confirmation Call Process
- No-show Appointment Call Process
- SOP Notification Process
- Recall Notification Process
- Service Status Calls
- Customer Satisfaction Follow-up Calls
- Additional Sales Request (declined follow-up??)
Conducting BDC General Information Meetings and Training
One of the most prevalent comments we hear from employees when conducting evaluations and interviews, is that they feel like “mushrooms, always in the dark.” Employers and direct bosses do not communicate with the “”troops nearly enough, in most environments. One of the steps that are essential to a smooth Service Department BDC implementation is a General Information Meeting to inform every one of what has been designed, what the expectation is, and what the end benefit will be for each person in the store. Involve staff in the development, and they will feel a part of the process and its growth. When they feel a part of the process, you are helping them begin to implement their plan. And it is much easier to implement their plan than to dictate ours.
A General Information Meeting might only include the BDC employees and the Advisors, or it could include the entire dealership. Everyone (or their customers) will benefit from an effective Service Department BDC, so why not inform everyone? Training should be well thought out and thorough. When training on topics such as computer usage, it may be advisable to have your computer vendor send someone to train the new employees on setting appointments in the computer when applicable. In other cases, you may choose to handle the training in house. In either case, the following list contains training topics that must be addressed. The list includes, but is not limited to:
- Phone Skills
- Appointment Documentation: A paper scheduling form and computer appointment log
- Word Usage Track: When to “flip” a call
- Outgoing Calls
Creating Methods of Measurement and Benchmarks
Methods of measurement and “checks and balances” can many times be the difference between an effective and an ineffective process. The BDC process is no different. Although it will vary in every environment, there are certain commonly tracked items that pertain to an effective Service Department BDC. Tracking can be manual or with the use of an Excel spreadsheet. The following is a sample list of items that should be tracked daily, weekly, and monthly and by the individual BDC Consultant:
- Number of incoming calls vs. appointments
- Number of outgoing calls vs. appointments
- Percentage of no-show appointments
- Results of ASR follow up
- Results of phone marketing campaigns
Training is another key element to a smooth kick off. But inevitably, and regardless of how well you plan and think through it, something will happen at “go time” that is unexpected and must be managed effectively and quickly. With no disrespect to anyone else, Service Managers are generally more accustomed to “managing on the fly”. Due to this fact, and the fact that Service Managers are usually better versed in setting appointments than other managers, the Service Manager should plan to spend the first few days of a Service Department BDC kick-off in the BDC office. It is also necessary to prepare for potential alterations in the phone flow process, having the necessary people available during kick-off to make adjusts on the fly. We have also found it to be very beneficial for other managers to spend time in the BDC during kick-off. One, so they can have the benefit of watching the process in action, and two, to identify other opportunities to strengthen a BDC process as it relates to other department views. A missing element in many kickoffs is feedback. Due to this fact, try to include the people it most effects (i.e. Advisors). Have them meet with the BDC staff after a day or two, to offer their views of how things are going and how it is being perceived by their customers. In any event, there should be a weekly meeting between ALL department managers and the BDC staff for the first few months. If, for no other reason, the team should meet just to say “thank you” to the BDC Consultants. Everyone likes to know how they impact the success of the dealership.
Keys to Success
Success of a Service Department BDC is based on many factors, but the key is the people. One of the best hiring practices I have heard is attributed to a Manager at one of the famous Hard Rock Cafes. He was asked by a patron, “how do you get all your people to be so nice and cheery,” and his answer was simple, “we hire attitudes”. How ingeniously simple! His biggest hiring criteria was attitude. It is very important to select the right people; after all, they will be talking to 75% of your Service Department customers. Other elements that are important to BDC success is that the BDC has a clear purpose, direction, and they know their mission. Once the direction is set, we must plan to be successful, thinking of every situation, and as many customer needs as possible. Although expenses should always be considered, make sure to staff to a sufficient level from the word go; never ask anyone to do a superior job with the handicap of asking them to carry too much of a load. Tools are essential, as mentioned earlier, when people are given the right tools and trained how to use such tools properly; their chances for success are tremendously increased. One of the most effective training procedures available is role play. It is, at times, uncomfortable for some, but after a few initial sessions, role playing will become fun for most. The beauty of role play training is that it can be used weekly to keep everyone sharp. Regardless of the training tools you select, training is an essential key to success. When everything is said and done, your results/outcomes will define the success of the program. Success can be measured by tracking and trending data, as well as, utilizing KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). Measuring success should be as objective as possible; this is not the time to rely solely on intuition. All in all, a Service Department BDC can be a great asset to your dealership and your customers. As with anything else, it must be well thought out and planned for, to ensure a smooth implementation, satisfied customers, and long term success.