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BDCs or Customer Engagement Center? It’s an Easy Decision From the Customer’s Point of View

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, are not permitted to provide this information.

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BDCs are limping around their final lap in dealerships today.

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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 or experience. The extremely valuable asset of in-market car shoppers is wasted in many stores when shoppers want more information than the BDC can provide before they show up for an appointment.

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, are not permitted to provide this information.

The customer engagement center (CEC) will quickly replace the BDC in dealerships across the country. The BDC’s day has passed. 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 members — the least-trained and lowest-paid people in the dealership — 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 to a point. 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.

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The second is the BDC pay plan. BDC employees are bonused based on appointments showing up. This leads to them trying 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 percent or fewer of appointments show. It’s just easier to agree to a time with no intention of showing up to get off the phone with the BDC representative. Armed with an “appointment” a few days off, the BDC rep leaves the customer alone to shop other dealerships. Have you ever called a customer who missed an appointment to only 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 — payments, interest rates, trade values and so on — the CEC TOs this customer to a salesperson. In this situation, the customer is guided into the dealership by a salesperson who has the complete information to provide to convince the customer to visit the dealership.

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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 salespeople who sift through all the potential opportunities and pass on the good ones to outside salespeople to close. Your salespeople will love dealing only 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, what that interaction with both departments looks like and how to achieve this. You will be surprised that, after 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, however, they want to turn it over to sales. Guess what — the salespeople want to control this part of the exchange, as well. Both groups will agree that this is the best time for a TO.

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Now to the pay plan. Your CEC reps should be bonused on successful TOs and delivered units. Everyone needs to be working toward the common goal: cars over the curb burning gas.

Your new CEC reps will hand off shoppers ready to work a car deal to your salespeople. Your salespeople will spend all of their time with shoppers who are ready to buy. Your CEC reps and your salespeople will be happier. 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 of the way, from shopping through delivery.

For a free set of CEC tips and tricks, please email at the address above with “CEC” in the subject line.

Jason Girdner

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