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In grade school we were taught the three R’s; reading, writing and arithmetic. They represented the basics of education. The three R’s, the basics, of your Service BDC are relationships, retention and return (ROI). Successful service BDC’s get the basics. By building lasting relationships and improving customer retention, your BDC will produce a robust return on your investment, especially in the long run.

It starts at delivery. At the moment the car hits the curb, the sales process ended and the service process began. This is an important perspective to adopt because your customer’s experience with your service department will lead to more service and sales, or a lost customer.

“Sold follow up is service marketing and a quality service experience is sales marketing. There is really no other way to look at it.”

Building Relationships

It is cliche – you need to build a relationship with your customer. But how much time have you invested in defining exactly what “building a relationship means”? Do your frontline employees share the same concept? Can you state in your own words why a relationship is important? Have you thought about how directly a customers experience impacts retention?

Whatever your goals are, it takes people and processes to realize those goals.

An intelligent process is a must. Reduce the frequency and improve the quality of the touches. When a customer buys a car do you bombard them with emails, phone calls and letters? I often see dealerships sending thank you letters from the dealer, emails from the sales person, introduction letters to the service manager and making a CSI call from the customer relations manager or BDC. Add the calls and emails and letters from the manufacturer on top of your new vehicle customers and they are being pounded with different messages; all from different people.

Think like your customer. “All I did was buy a car!” We are lucky they don’t put a restraining order against us.

This is why you need an intelligent process. You can’t build a long lasting value added customer relationship as a company, with a crowd mentality. Once you know why, the what becomes easier. Your BDC is the single entity that can build a relationship that transcends departmental lines, isn’t affected by turnover on the frontline and be the other “person” in the customer’s relationship.

In one call, a BDC agent can congratulate your customer, measure sales satisfaction, quality check processes, confirm or schedule the first service appointment, invite them to the owner clinic and schedule the next contact in sixty days prior to a confirmed service appointment at 90 or 120 days. It can all be done in one contact.

We would all agree the beginning is always important. Start your customer’s vehicle lifecycle intelligently. Now think like your customer. Felling better?

Follow this philosophy throughout the customer’s ownership of the vehicle. Look for high quality touches that benefit the customer. Frankly, form letters and automated anniversary emails don’t nurture a relationship. What if that was how your friends and family communicated with you?

Personalized, relevant and timely touches are what work. Always know why the customer will benefit from the interaction and make that the purpose of the call, letter, email, newsletter, birthday card and so on.

In today’s world of transparency, only personalized service will create true loyalty and increase retention.

RetentionScreen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.31.01 PM

Let’s face it. It may be the one word that sums up everything you’re trying to do from a process standpoint.

The first act of retention is getting the customer in for their first service appointment. A lot of people who buy cars from you are already using your service department. Good service experiences lead to car sales and good car buying experiences lead to service business. It’s the yin and the yang.

As your customers lifecycle ages, be smart with your contacts. Make sure your messages and offers are timely and relevant.

Contact them for maintenance requirements and recalls. Parlay that with seasonal offers and use a monthly e-newsletter to keep your name top of mind. Personalized birthday cards, coupons, accessory offers are examples of value added contacts from the customer’s point of view.

Now add in the milestones. Identify when customers begin to become good sales prospects. Milestones like the vehicle’s warranty is expiring or the customer enters an equity position. Large repair bills or expensive maintenance are also catalyst for the “its time for an upgrade” discussion.

Don’t forget about your lease portfolio. Leasing has made the comeback but have your processes? When leasing was popular I saw a lot of dealerships had a dedicated Lease Portfolio Manager. That role is slowly being revived as rejuvenated lease portfolios begin to mature. Nothing fits better in your BDC wheelhouse.

It all started at delivery. When the customer trades the next time the retention process is just re-booted. It never stops.


The ROI on a service BDC is incredible. You see results quicker than you do with sales BDC’s and Service BDC’s are easier to staff and operate than a sale’s BDC because it’s just easier to convert a service customer. It’s almost order taking other than fielding easy price/time objections.

A service BDC should increase appointments, convert customers who decline service and market customers who have never serviced or have fallen outside a pre-set timeframe, usually six or nine months.

A dealer up east I know produced a whopping $83,000 dollars from declined service opportunities with a smart call from the BDC. This is a group with five locations that processes about 8500 repair orders a month.  That’s $9.75 per repair order. That is an incredible return on approximately $3000 in personnel expense.

Right now, recalls are a huge opportunity for many new car franchises. A good service BDC can manage the whole process from A-Z. Download the list, push it to CRM, make the contacts and schedule the appointments. The BDC can track parts availability and manage the appointments as parts are available. Your penetration on the list will be high and the ROI off the chart.

Let’s talk about the fuzzy stuff. You know, the things you can’t really track.

The first one I notice is the phone pressure taken off the service lane. Phones are getting answered and the advisors can give undivided attention to the customer in front of them. What kind of value is that creating? It actually is something you can track though. CSI and hours per RO are probably the best indicators.

BDC’s offer consistency in your processes. Service follow up happens all the time because it’s in the hands of a department that has capacity and isn’t slowed down by busy days in the lane that would prevent frontline employees from making any outbound calls and sometimes miss a lot of inbound calls. Think like your customer. What would you do if you needed service on ANYTHING and couldn’t get the provider on the phone?

You don’t have to have a BDC to build relationships, have high retention rates and be profitable. A BDC is just one way of reaching those goals.

BDC’s don’t interfere with the great relationships some of your service advisors and sales people have with your customers. BDC’s actually help those relationships by adding value to the dealership for which the advisors and salespeople work; thus adding value in the employee.

No matter how you go about them, relationships and retention are forged by intelligent strategies that are value added, timely and relevant to the customer. The ROI is built in.

The other choice is to be indifferent. My dealer once told me that 65% of our lost customers fire us because of an attitude of indifference. An automated or template process is just as bad.

Relationships and retention are long lasting things by nature. They provide a solid foundation for any service department and really the whole dealership. It is becoming exceedingly harder and more expensive to buy new customers.

Be smart. Think like your customer and hang on to them.

Good luck and good selling