October 02, 2001 19:35:49
You May Already Be On Your Way to Having a BDC
Dynamic Marketing Strategies, Inc.
Do you already have a person calling service customers or a person calling showroom traffic and service customers? Maybe you have an outside company calling your customers or sending follow-up letters or calendars with the customer's picture on it. Many dealers utilize outside companies to perform a variety of services that fall under the Business Development Center (BDC) scenario.
My point is that the concepts of a BDC are not always unique or for that matter, new at all. What is new is that a growing number of dealerships are realizing that they are already paying for many of the benefits a BDC offers. However, they are not getting all of the benefits a BDC could provide.
During many of the planning sessions I have conducted I have found that most dealerships are already spending a fair amount of money on services which could easily be termed "Business Development." As a result, the creation of a BDC is not always a significant increase in expense. Many times it's more a realignment of people. This realignment, in many cases, could actually reduce the cost and solve personnel problems. For instance, a dealership may have separate people in place to perform certain functions, such as calling showroom prospects who did not buy, calling service customers and calling sold customers or lease renewal prospects. The typical problem that occurs in this scenario is there is no true backup for these people. When one of them is out, the work piles up. If the person resigns, the problem gets worse. By placing these people in one center you enjoy the benefits of cross-training. You will no longer held hostage by a single person who is the only person with knowledge of their specific area.
Regarding the outsourcing of certain aspects of the BDC, whenever possible I suggest that your BDC operations be conducted in-house. However, this is not always practical. As we all know, no two dealerships are the same. BDC's require space and people. A shortage of either one of these could dictate outsourcing.
While I prefer in-house BDCs, many times I have suggested the use of outside firms to perform BDC functions. It is important to recognize that true business development comes in many ways. For example, a dealership has a significant shortage of space and as a result, they cannot install a BDC. However, they still would like to improve their image and level of communication with their customers. To accomplish this they might be wise to look at the following:
- Outsourcing showroom follow-up or service follow-up. It's best to have this done in-house, but if this is not possible, outsourcing is better than not doing it at all.
- There are companies who will send your customers thank-you gifts. Some will send cookies or flowers. Another great idea is the companies who send personal picture calendars. The calendar program is nice because it's not something easily duplicated at the dealership. Additionally, the picture-taking makes the delivery process somewhat of an event. And it provides the dealership and the salesperson with a copy of the picture taken as well as certain details of the vehicle purchased. This could become an extremely helpful tool a couple of years later when the salesperson is following up.
However, please remember these follow-up and calendar systems only communicate with the people who purchase. Don't forget your prospects need attention too.
- Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your customers. While there are many types of newsletters, you typically get the opportunity to deliver a lot of message for the cost. However, due to cost, dealerships usually send these only to their sold customers. Again, remember to not forget your prospects. Because newsletters are typically a warm and friendly communication tool, I like seeing them sent to prospects as well as sold customers. If you send newsletters now or are considering doing so, I suggest making sure that your service database is merged with the sold customer database. Your dealership may have a great number of visiting owners who could be turned into sold units. If you do merge databases, please make sure you have someone de-dupe your files. It always amazes me how many dealers send many of the same pieces to the same customer. Many mail houses will do this because it's the right thing to do. However, some just want the volume.
When considering a BDC, you should take a good inventory of the programs you already have in place as well as the BDC concepts you may already be subscribing to. This will help you to avoid duplication of expense and effort. As you can see, proper planning is crucial to a successful BDC launch. Taking the time to analyze a dealership's current environment carefully saves money, time and eliminates potential embarrassment. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about how to conduct a proper plan for a BDC, it may be a good idea to have a consultant help you with this. Very often, this can be accomplished in only one day. Based on the feedback and reports you get, you should be in a position to decide, plan and execute your next moves.
Depending on the management and staff you have at your dealership, you may be able to take the reports and move forward on your own. If you analyze your dealership properly and create a comprehensive plan you may be able to avoid hiring an outside consultant to install your BDC. Installing a BDC is not overly difficult when planned properly. If you do install your BDC on your own though, I would have an outsider perform periodic checks.
Forrest Scott is president of Dynamic Marketing Strategies, Inc. He is an internationally know speaker and industry expert in all areas of retail automotive sales. If you would like more information on this subject or would like to speak with him personally please feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at Dynamic Marketing Strategies, Inc.