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How to Increase Your Dealership’s BDC Experience

As inventory levels begin to normalize in 2023, and OEM incentives begin to trickle back, auto dealers are being forced to rethink not only their marketing efforts, but their entire dealership experience.

Customer buying habits have changed rapidly in the last few years. According to a recent Vehicle Buyer survey conducted by S&P Global Mobility, 60% of customers now expect their next vehicle purchase to be completed entirely online, up 8% from pre-COVID.

With an effective and well-connected Business Development Center, proactive dealers have the opportunity to transform these changes into new opportunities to meet buyers where they are – online or in-person. 

What Does a BDC Do?

The dealership Business Development Center (BDC) is traditionally responsible for setting up sales appointments for new sales and service leads by:

  • Identifying
  • Engaging
  • Securing

While a dealership’s BDC has long served an important role in the sales process, dealers are continuously finding new ways to leverage the BDC to support other key dealership operations, such as:

  • Supporting pre-owned vehicle acquisitions
  • Service-to-sales
  • Customer retention efforts

In order to establish a top-tier Business Development Center, dealerships require the appropriate backing for their strategy, which includes:

  • Tools
  • Training
  • Structure
  • Process

In this blog post, we’ll explore why the dealership BDC is so important and share ways for dealers to improve BDC departments, including:

  • Effectively and efficiently improving your BDC
  • Structuring your BDC to support dealership-wide success
  • Maximizing your BDC efforts to support service, acquisition and retention efforts

The Transformation of Digital Retail

The retail mantra of "right product, right price, right place" has proven to be especially true in 2023. Amid ongoing inventory shortages, customers have grown patient when it comes to waiting for the right product at the right price. Thanks to rapid digitalization, the “place” is increasingly outside the physical dealership.

Car shoppers have, for some time now, begun the buying process by researching and comparing vehicles online. However, having online comparison tools is no longer enough for many.

The new differentiator is the ability to complete parts of the lengthy transaction process online, which used to be entirely in-person at the dealership. This convenience is no longer just a "nice-to-have" feature. Consumers are willing to travel further and even engage with new dealerships to get the desired digital experience.

Tailoring Your BDC to be Effective and Efficient

In the past, working in an automotive BDC typically involved prioritizing the quantity of leads by making as many outbound calls as possible, often overlooking lead quality in favor of sheer volume. However, due to the recent inventory shortages and fluctuating customer loyalty, dealerships are now relying on their BDCs to perform various strategic roles throughout the sales process, including supporting service-to-sales and retention efforts.

Given the BDC's ability to support multiple dealership departments and operations, there is no single approach to building an effective and efficient BDC. Successful dealerships can be found customizing their strategies to meet their unique requirements, leveraging their BDC’s expertise to bridge gaps between departments and address any shortcomings in the dealership's sales process.

To define your strategy, start by assessing your current BDC to identify areas of opportunity. Ask questions such as:

-   Where does your BDC gain knowledge on new products and vehicles?

-   How can the hand-off between the BDC and sales be more streamlined?

-   What size team do you need to build a robust customer experience?

-   Is your BDC regularly assessing any gaps in your sales process?

Based on their answers to questions like these, dealers can maximize the efficiency of their BDC by implementing the proper equipment to ensure success for their team, including:

-   Staffing

-   Training

-   Tools

-   Technology

-   Management

How to Staff Your BDC

Reviewing the current process is another crucial step that enables dealerships to detect and address any gaps in their BDC's sales strategy. Although BDC staffing models vary among dealerships for obvious reasons, the most common model involves the BDC's primary objective of delivering qualified prospects to the sales team for closing, rather than closing the sale themselves.

As the initial point of contact between a potential buyer and a dealership BDC representative, an agent can greatly influence the tone of the customer's overall experience. Starting from this first touchpoint, BDC managers must ensure that their team has access to as much information and insights as possible regarding their prospects. This is vital to support informative and data-driven conversations with customers.

How to Manage Your BDC

Dealership leaders should begin at the top level when building a BDC. When choosing managers, it's crucial to identify team members who can balance sales targets with a strong commitment to providing excellent customer experiences and relationship management.

While having a sales-oriented individual oversee day-to-day operations of the BDC can be valuable, the focus on customer experience means candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience in managing non-sales environments should also be considered. BDCs can serve as powerful tools to accelerate the prospect's decision-making process with the right:

  • Structure
  • Staffing
  • Management

Effective BDCs also contribute positively to overall customer satisfaction with their dealership experience.

How to Structure Your BDC

Just like the strategy, the structure of a BDC should be tailored to meet the specific needs of a dealership. Whether a dealership chooses to manage the approach with their BDC or pass leads on to the sales department, a well-designed BDC structure can support:

For the BDC to operate smoothly and efficiently, it must be well-integrated with the rest of the dealership and have access to current customer insights to create personalized sales and service offers. To succeed, it’s essential for your BDC to meet regularly with your sales team to discuss critical information such as popular car models and the goals of each department.

Maximizing BDC Efforts to Support Service, Acquisition and Retention

The BDC can be highly effective when utilized alongside the service department. Not only does the service generate continuous revenue, but also supports sales, pre-owned acquisitions and customer retention.

One key strategy is to assign your BDC the task of identifying potential sales prospects among your dealership's upcoming service appointments, such as customers whose warranties have expired or who have exceeded their lease mileage, and then offer personalized deals. This is also an opportunity for the BDC to identify potential trade-in or buy-back opportunities among service appointments. This includes customers driving in-demand vehicles or those approaching the end of their lease or finance term.

To maximize success, the BDC's performance should be evaluated based on metrics that go beyond sales figures and the number of appointments scheduled. It's important to track relationship-building concepts and KPIs such as:

  • If the prospect continues to interact with the dealership, even if not for a sales appointment
  • If they can successfully answer a customer’s question in a way that leads to continued shopping

Understanding the Customer’s Journey with Data

The success of a dealership's BDC depends on their ability to understand where customers are in their buying journey and tailor their communication accordingly.

By identifying customers who present the greatest service-to-sales or pre-owned acquisition opportunities, the BDC can act as an effective service-to-sales liaison. Not only does this connection bridge the gap between service and sales, but it also establishes an efficient process for service-to-sales interactions in both directions.

Using this approach also enables the BDC to pinpoint service appointments that can be converted into sales appointments, creating potential trade or buy-back opportunities to boost the dealership's pre-owned inventory, while ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction.

Engaging and Retaining Loyalty Customers

To prevent customer defection and protect the customer base, dealers must engage their loyalty audience consistently. The BDC should remind customers of the reasons they trusted the dealership in the first place, using:

  • Pre-scheduled service appointments
  • Notifications
  • Reminders

It's crucial that each communication touchpoint builds upon the previous one, meeting customers where they are in their ownership journey and keeping them engaged for years to come. The BDC should contact prospects with a personalized upgrade offer, considering the customer's trade-in value and any OEM incentives, while also leveraging previous communications or touchpoints.

In light of ongoing inventory shortages and diminishing customer loyalty, proactive dealers are finding new ways to leverage the dealership BDC beyond supporting the sales department. Serving as a natural link between a dealer's online and in-person buying experiences, the dealership BDC is instrumental in:

  • Sales
  • Service
  • Loyalty
  • Pre-owned acquisition efforts

In order for dealers to reimagine their BDCs, they need the right tools, teams and processes to maximize their success.

Interested in learning how automotiveMastermind can help your BDC team effectively communicate with prospects? Contact us for a free demo.