Anonymous Interviews in Automotive Retail

We’re kicking off our new series of anonymous interviews with the people who make the retail automotive machine work. Interested in knowing what’s on your BDC representative’s mind? You’ve come to the right place. We gave an exit interview with an anonymous BDC rep so they could give honest answers directly. Read on to find out what kills calls, what makes customers happy, and the most surprising thing about being a BDC representative.

Q: What’s the one thing you would want dealership leaders to know?

A: It’s such a critical role, but it didn’t feel like we got the attention the role deserves. If dealerships don’t support the BDC team helping customers they are missing those opportunities. In general, the BDC just seems like it should be more of a priority. I honestly enjoyed what I was able to do, and the incentives helped a lot, but overall it wasn’t that well paid or respected so it wasn’t long term for me. The focus is just not there in line with how much we can bring. We play just as large a role in selling the car as the salesman on the floor.

Q: What was the best thing a manager did to support you during that time?

A: They had organized special pricing sheets for new inventory so we could reward customers that shopped online by providing aggressive pricing. Ultimately this was a tool to persuade customers from going to our competitors’ locations to make their purchase. It worked.

The rewards and incentives were really motivating. The competition across the store and dealership made us work really hard to make it happen.

Q: What was the most demotivating thing a manager did?

A: Just not knowing the answers. Their knowledge of the different vehicle makes and OEM’s was about the same level as ours. So instead of going to our manager, we had to work with the sales team or sales managers to better understand the equipment between certain trim levels. You could learn who to go to, but you had to drop the call to figure it out and then you don’t know if you are going to be able to get that customer back.

Q: What killed a call? Everything was going fine and then…

A: Numerous different factors would kill a call but the most common was when customers asked for monthly payments or “Out the Door Pricing”. Maybe customers that were planning to pay cash would like to know the full price of the vehicle including tax title and license. The BDC was not allowed to configure these values and always had to go to a Sales Manager. Anything that made us get off the phone, stopped the momentum. Other major factors included price if it didn’t beat our competitor’s offer. Trade values also caused quite an issue as we’re not able to offer or give trade values over the phone. That is something we required the customer to come on-site for as we would need to see the vehicle to do a proper evaluation. When you can’t help them immediately you lower your chances of getting them back.

Q: What was the most useful tool you had at the dealership?

A: Our CRM because it stored the notes and purchase history for each customer that we had worked with. When a previous customer called back in we weren’t starting cold.

Q: What caused callers to get impatient or frustrated?

A: Time and knowledge on the subject. Most customers calling in were limited on time as they were on lunch at work or had downtime after dinner. They didn’t want to spend any longer than 5 to 10 minutes on the phone.  For example, a customer would call about a used unit at one location and if it has Bluetooth or a sunroof, we would have to call a salesman at the dealership to go touch the vehicle (to make sure it wasn’t sold) and ensure the equipment requested was on the car. Then call the customer back to confirm. Sometimes really aggressive shoppers would say they had already purchased a unit by then if they were already shopping around that day. Not knowing what kind of equipment was on the car created a missed sales opportunity.

Q: What other problems did you run into with the BDC?

A: When a customer called in to ask questions about a used vehicle since we had no idea what kind of packages were on it unless we asked around. Some guys at the dealership between the BDC and Internet department had 20+ years of automotive experience so they knew the packages and equipment on most makes and models. But you would still have to put the customer on hold and either go check the vehicle itself on the lot for navigation or ask around at the dealership to see if anyone else knew. It was even worse if they called about a used car at another location that the BDC was not close to. Then we would have to call a salesman to go check the car to see if it had the equipment that the customer was looking for.

Q: What made callers super happy?

A: When you could quickly identify a vehicle that not only fit their wants or needs, but also their price range.

Q: What was the most surprising thing about the role?

A: What still surprises me is how many inbound calls and email leads we had on a daily basis. You were almost constantly on the phone talking to customers convincing them to come in to see your inventory. It was surprising to see how many customers proactively shopped for inventory online.

Q: What could have helped your department?

A: I wanted to be able to manage the inventory within one tab instead of four separate websites. We needed knowledge of all the different vehicle makes, models, and packages across all OEM’s that my team didn’t have through our vehicle decoding/data. We needed to make the ability to multitask stronger and find the answer without getting off the phone. We had a solid understanding of the new vehicles as we were trained on those trims, but any other makes and models we were taking a shot in the dark.

Q: Did you use the store’s website? What worked about that? What didn’t work about that?

A: We had a group website for the four stores, but that site always seemed to have an inaccurate representation of each store’s inventory compared to their individual websites. So I would have four different tabs up for each dealer website. It worked well for customers that were set on going to a specific location. It was more difficult when you had a customer looking for used inventory and was open to all four stores as you had to maneuver and search inventory across all four website tabs causing more time on your end, while the customer on the phone became more impatient.

Q: What was the mix of inquiries across phone, email, chat? What was your favorite, least favorite and why?

A: I would say the mix of inquiries came down to forty percent phones, forty percent emails and twenty percent chat from the website. My favorite was phone inquiries because so often with emails it was too difficult to understand what the customer was looking for. Ninety percent of email inquiries would end up picking or buying a vehicle completely different from the original one they inquired about. For example, one man inquired about a new Honda Civic and left the dealership in a pre-owned Honda CR-V.

Q: What made a person good at answering phones versus email or chat?

A: Creating trust with each customer they worked with and showing that they truly cared about the customer’s interest. They established trust with these customers by understanding their wants and needs while having a deep knowledge of the inventory on their lot. And by this I mean, knowing the equipment between different trim levels. For example, a good BDC rep understands that a customer needs a sunroof on the car. Okay great, I know that all Honda EX models or higher will have a sunroof, but I can’t point them in the direction of a used vehicle outside of the Honda OEM that has a sunroof because I do not have that background knowledge. Great BDC reps had that background knowledge. Would be great for all of us to know that.