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Centralize your BDC? Only if you do it right!

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At one point or another, every multi-store Dealer-Operator is going to consider having one large Business Development Center handle Internet and telephone opportunities for all of their dealerships out of one location.  It’s a tempting thought, what with the ability to have everything under one roof and ideally with one focus, sharing one message.  We’ve worked with many groups to implement this approach, and I’ve seen it work out very well many times.  To make it work, you need to understand that a structure like this brings on its own set of challenges, and plan for them.

Here are a few important things for dealers and managers to think about before they merge individual store BDCs into a centralized location.

You’ll have one message, so it better be right! – There’s always a lot of interest in having everyone in one BDC following the same scripts, using the same templates, and following the same process.  The problem is that customers tend to be somewhat unique based on the brand they’re considering, the market they are shopping in, and the method they’re using to initiate contact.  When you have one message, you’re assuming a “one size fits all” philosophy, and that doesn’t necessarily generate the highest results.  We believe that the best BDCs have a process and message that takes those unique qualities into account.

You may see a decrease in your appointment show rate. – When a BDC is off site, you risk losing the relationship that the prospect formed had with the BDC rep that was their first contact.  Prospects don’t like to be told they’ll be working with someone else when they come into the dealership, and if you don’t adjust for this in your process you’re probably going to see your show rates drop 20 to 30 percent as prospects change their mind about coming in and working with a stranger after they schedule an appointment.  We have found that this can be overcome by factoring that reluctance into your scripts and templates, and by incorporating managers and a concierge experience into your prospect arrival and greeting process.

You’ll probably have higher rep turnover. – Large offsite BDCs can create a kind of “burnout” that results in much higher personnel turnover than we see in smaller, store based ones.  When BDC reps lose most of their involvement in the complete customer experience, it takes a lot of the more rewarding aspects of the job away from them.  You need to make sure the BDC team is regularly included in dealership meetings, events, and training or you’re going to be spending a lot of time hiring and training new people all the time.

Bigger departments mean bigger expenses. – Once you have more than four people in a BDC, you’re crossing a line.  You’re probably going to have to create space, furnish the space, and supply all the needed technology and connectivity to the space.  You’re also going to need a full-time BDC manger, whereas with a smaller BDC we find that a working “team leader” can provide all the management that a well installed BDC needs.

Peer interaction is a good thing. – Once you take a BDC offsite, you’re losing a lot of positive interaction between the BDC reps, the salespeople, and managers.  Offsite BDCs can develop a kind of “siege” mentality, which left unchecked will cause them to lose the focus you want – one where they are absolutely confident about having the prospect visit the dealership.  When salespeople and managers don’t see and hear BDC reps regularly, they start worrying that they are lying to or misleading the customers they are working with.  When the BDC is part of the dealership team, they will be viewed in a much more positive light by the sales force and managers.

There are a number of things that dealership groups can do to make an offsite or centralized BDC work well for them, and we’ve been involved in setting up some great ones, but there are some extra steps that need to be included in the design, installation, and administration of a large BDC in order to make sure that it can bring in the results you’re going to be expecting.  And if you decide to stay with smaller, individual store BDCs, that’s not always a bad way to go!