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BDC / Internet operations are near and dear to my heart and I wanted to post this article I wrote for the DrivingSales Dealership Innovation Guide 3rd Quarter 2011 [ http://goo.gl/Lxu8t ] for those who may have missed it:
"How many customers do you lock in your showroom at night?"
This is a question that I enjoy asking dealer contacts around the country when I hear there is not a process in place or a process isn’t followed consistently to respond to customers on the other end of the telephone or the internet. Believe it or not, as many of us are running full speed with our BDC departments and have been for years, there are still dealers around the country that either do not have such a department or have a half-functioning one. For those dealers that fall into the latter two categories, it is time to step back, take a deep breath, and get a plan together to maximize on the opportunities that are there just as a customer standing in the showroom. I have a strong passion for BDC department operations as many of you already know and my goal is to get dealers to read, get the ball rolling for their store and achieve immediate results. To many, this article may seem elementary but every dealer isn’t running at the same pace. My goal is to get more dealers in the race. It is incremental business that is being missed. Complacency has no home in automotive retail and nobody wants to be left behind. The good news is that it isn’t too late.
I am a firm believer that the customer standing in the showroom and the customer sitting at home on their computer or calling the dealership on their telephone is no different from one another. Yet I still see or hear about it happening everyday that the customer at home gets pushed to the back burner until actual showroom floor traffic dies down or maybe not even responded to at all. Why does this happen? Is it lack of phone training or poor follow up skills? Or is it that old school mentality of unless the customer is standing in front of you they aren’t a serious buyer? It is probably a little bit of all of the above. The truth is that almost all customers that eventually walk into the showroom have already been on the Internet researching, comparing and gathering all of the necessary information that they require until comfortable enough to call or pay the dealership a visit. By putting a BDC department in place and managed right, a dealership will significantly increase appointments which will lead to increased showroom traffic. So why not “up” the customer before they arrive and increase the chances greatly of closing the sale? The excitement and energy put forth with the customer on the lot should be just the same with the customer online or by telephone.
Now that it has been established that there isn’t any difference between the customer at home and the customer standing in the showroom, it is now time to have the desire to focus more attention on the BDC department in the dealership and commit to it. Going through the motions and responding to leads only one time with a price quote will not do a bit of good. If I were in the market for a product and every company I contacted sent me a price quote when I inquired in general, I would keep shopping until I eventually got the lowest price and all others would never hear from me again. The goal is to sell the appointment and not the vehicle. It is very hard to build value in something over email. If the customer does not provide a phone number and requests information, a call to action to the telephone should be clear asking the customer to call the dealership so the information requested can be discussed in detail.
Proper phone training is needed in order to consistently sell the appointment and have the customer actually show up. Just as there is a process and steps to the sale with the showroom customer, there should be a process and steps to the appointment once the customer is on the phone. There are many call guides available to help pace the customer and keep control of the phone call also in which selling the value of the dealership can be included. Please remember they are guides and should be followed but do not remove personality from the equation. When on the phone, never stop smiling. Customers can hear that smile over the telephone and it makes for a better phone call experience for both parties hands down. Phone skills are the most important and dealers should be sure to have the right staff in this position.
I am sure by now dealers reading are pumped up and feel the excitement they will create when going full force with the BDC department. It is a full time job and should be staffed as such. It’s time to stay focused, do a virtual walk-thru of your website and make sure all inventory has pictures with the most up to date information. We are in July and nobody is interested in the sale that went on during the second week of June. The website should be monitored daily.
Finally, be prompt in getting the information back to the customer and answer their questions. One thing I dislike is someone ignoring a question I asked in the beginning. The more times a customer has to ask the same question, the less likely they will ever step foot into the showroom. One of the biggest complaints from customers is not getting a response at all from the dealership they inquired with. That is the same thing as going home at night and locking a customer in the showroom.
What current processes do you have in place that are working well?