In today’s competitive business market, everyone is looking for the edge, a way to grow their business and to improve customer retention. A Business Development Center (BDC) has become a way for many dealers to find that edge. Business Development Centers have been around for many years, with many manufacturers already supporting the process. Some manufacturers, in fact, require that their Dealers have a BDC. It is no longer a question of “if” they will have a BDC, but a matter of “when and how.”
A BDC is a call-center staffed with customer service representatives who respond to, assist, and support the customer at designated interactions. Such staff may be internal or contracted in nature. Automotive Sales Departments have utilized this concept to handle customer contacts, perform follow-up calls, and to generate leads. One would have thought that such a concept would be an easy transition for use in the Service Department. This was not the case. Sales knowledge and expertise, as related to Sales BDCs, did not insure success for a Service Department BDC.
M5 has developed a Service Department BDC from a Fixed Operation Director’s perspective, and has maximized as many BDC uses for Fixed Ops, as possible. M5’s experience and knowledge of effective BDC development has allowed M5 to become an expert in the field, as related to Service Department BDCs. This document will explore the preparation and implementation of an effective Service BDC.
Assessment: Is a BDC Right for Us?
Before you embark on any new process or departmental change, you have to ask yourself, “Is it right for me?” Implementing a BDC is no different. Many dealers are looking for the answer to those age-old questions: How do I get the advisors to answer the phone when they are busy, how do I keep my customers informed while their vehicles are in for Service, and why can’t I get people notified when their parts come in? Does any of this sound familiar? We have all asked these questions from time-to-time. A Service Department BDC may provide the answers you are seeking to those age-old questions.
When evaluating whether a Service Department BDC is right for your facility, there are a few questions that can help you in making the right decision. Listed below are a series of questions to be used as “thought process starters”; this list is by no means all inclusive.
- How do you document your appointments?
- Is work flow fairly even with your production capacity?
- Do your technicians run out of work?
- Do you have too many carry-overs?
- Are your customers serviced the same day they come in?
- How do you determine how many appointments to take and when to stop?
- Who currently sets appointments?
- Is your appointment information up to the minute?
- Do you make appointment confirmation calls?
- Do you call “no-show” appointments to reschedule?
- How are customers notified regarding their special-order parts?
- How do you notify customers of campaigns and recalls?
- Do you utilize phone marketing for the Service Department?
- How many status calls do you receive each day?
Do you have any quality control methods related to phone conversations?
Answering questions, such as the ones noted above, will assist you and your team in determining what your current processes are, and their impact on labor, productivity and costs associated with each of the functions examined.
OK, so a Service Department BDC may be right for you. So what are your expectations related to your new BDC? Is the BDC simply going to be a call-center to take appointments, or will the BDC staff perform as appointment coordinators? Will the BDC be used as a follow-up tool to ensure that customers are being contacted? Will staff perform status calls, SOP notifications, recall notifications, or follow-up on declined repairs? Will the BDC be used to truly develop more business? Is your current marketing plan reaching your target market? Are you marketing to “lost souls or orphaned owners?”
Regardless of the components you ultimately select, it is suggested that you sit down with the Parts and Service Department Directors and Managers to create a BDC wish list before any decisions are made. Characteristics of your BDC can then be compiled to determine the center’s most effective and efficient strategies.
Clearly defined job descriptions are essential for each position within the BDC. The positions to consider are: BDC Manager and BDC Consultants. Each position will be responsible for specific duties. If it is a joint Service and Sales Department BDC, there may be a need for separate job descriptions for Service BDC Consultants and Sales BDC Consultants.
Hours of Operation and Staffing
When implementing a BDC, cost effectiveness will be a consideration. One way to be mindful of effective cost control is to determine the peak hours of phone call volume. What hours of operation will most cost –effectively optimize the Service Department BDC? Is it important that representatives be available in the early morning? Is it important to be available after Service hours? Should customer service representatives be available on weekends? Each Service Department will have unique characteristics related to customer expectations and business volume. As always, staffing a new department of any kind can be a challenge. It is important to examine your departmental characteristics when deciding your BDC hours of operation.
Once you have determined your hours of operation, you will need to decide the best way to staff those hours. Should you utilize existing employees? Should you hire people specifically chosen for the job? Can you cross train existing employees? How many people do you actually need? Do you have an existing Sales BDC that can be cross-trained to the Service Department (remember, that may not be the best solution). Should you hire an experienced Manager? There are many questions about hours of operation and staffing levels as you begin this process; most of those questions can only be answered through observations and evaluating the phone volume and points of interaction.
Depending on the number of employees and the call volume, the anticipated size of the center will vary. Some facilities will choose to use a corner office currently not in use; others may choose to create a designated area in which the BDC will be housed. The size of the center is not as important as the layout. A BDC office seems most effective when the consultants’ desks are visible from the Manager’s desk. It is also extremely beneficial for the Manager to be able to hear the conversations between the BDC Consultant and the customer. It has also been proven beneficial for the BDC office to be in view from the Service Drive. In cases in which that is not feasible, it is useful to have a closed circuit camera view of the Service Drive, in cases where the BDC is removed from Drive visibility. Service Drive visibility will allow the BDC Consultant to know if the advisor is at his or her desk before making a transfer, and therefore, avoiding blind transfers. Many BDCs also utilize dry erase boards to facilitate various types of communications; one should consider the wall space available to mount these boards when selecting an area to house the BDC.
There are many ways to determine the number of appointments to set on any given day. There are “scientific” ways, and ways that appear to have no “rhyme or reason.” It is important to have an accurate way to ensure that you do not over book one day and under book the next. Overbooking creates unhappy customers waiting for service; under-booking creates technician productivity issues. Arguably, setting appointments according to your shop capacity is the best way. This method is based on the premise that each technician has a daily capacity, and collectively, they create a shop capacity, according to “who’s on deck” on any given day. For safety purposes, it is important not to book to full capacity (100%). Due to walk-ins, tow-ins and additional sales, 70% of capacity is the number at which to start, and then adjust as business dictates. Once you have your shop capacity number, you simply set each appointment with a time assignment. When you reach your number, your schedule will be full. This method works very well with Advance Production systems, as well. Each group has their individual capacity, and most computer systems are set up to handle this type of scheduling. Sounds simple enough; however, the challenges come in when you have people setting appointments that have no idea of the time each job requires, and no readily accessible way to obtain that information.
There is another method to consider, the Body Count Method. Most of the time, this method is accomplished by the Service Manager informing the appointment staff as to how many appointments to take each day, again with no analytical basis for such decisions. This method is very spotty at best, and depends largely on the Manager’s “feel.” Relying on intuition (and not fact) that “we are busy” may lead to limiting appointments and running out of work. Body Count can actually be applied “scientifically,” however, with a little thought. The thought is to join the two methods. We know how many hours a day we need to book appointments, and we know our average hours per repair order. If we divide the total hours needed, by the average, we know (basically) how many repair orders, and therefore, the number of appointments needed for any given day. Many times in a BDC environment, you are dealing with people who have great phone skills, but lack an understanding of mechanical components. However, in many cases, this is the best scenario. M5 has used this “scientific” Body Count method many times, in conjunction with BDC Consultants with tremendous success.
Next week: Part 2!