Don't Leave The Lot Just Yet! (We still need you)

Digital is an expectation, not an enhancement or an addition.

Our culture has come to expect a digital experience in the smallest of our daily routines. Fast Food has become automated (now the kiosk can forget I said no pickles), I can just take a picture and deposit my check, (or just use Apple Pay and PayPal) and I even order my dog food off of Amazon.



In the automotive industry, this means from the moment of initial purchasing research until the moment the car is programmed for the buyer, digital seems to run the show.


Except when it doesn’t.


Amidst all this automation and technology, there is one thing that has remained consistent: Selling cars is still a social event. It is relational. People buy cars from people. People they like and trust.

Technology has removed most other variables in the purchasing process. Online Transparency eliminated the issue of pricing. Most new vehicles are priced with little margin, and used vehicles are competitively priced.


People search online to find the exact vehicle they think they want, including the trim levels, the mileage, and all other options. All that is left is to come into the dealership. And your sales and internet team need to win them over.


And that takes skill and communication.


Communication is the factor that can make or break a sale. How many of your salespeople are communication experts? How many are writing wizards and eloquent with every word.

Not too many?


Knowing how to communicate is a skill that is not easy to train. You must be able to read a person, listen to not only their words, but also their body language, and then adjust your message based on what they are saying (or not saying).


This is made even more difficult when the majority of the communication is being held online. There are some ways to utilize technology to make our conversations and emails with clients more personalized and well received


How to Make Communication a Little Easier:




Crystal is a free technology that gathers public social data about the person whose name you enter, and then analyzes any online information This software then tells you about the person's DISC, their preferred methods of communication, and how they choose to communicate with others.


This even gives you suggested email subject lines that should appeal specifically to the potential client. This is not 100% accurate (what in life is?), but close enough to help guide the way you talk to potential customers.


Oh, BTW. It’s free.


Social Media/Linkedin


Why are we not using this more when researching how to communicate to customers? You can learn so much from a cursory glance at someone’s LinkedIn or facebook. From bios, posts, etc you can see how formal or informal they are and what is seemingly important to them.


Just that little bit of information would help guide the length of your emails, your word choices, and your tone within the correspondence. And it truly takes 5 minutes of research to have this “insider information.”


PS--It’s not stalking if it’s already out there, however, remember that you are not requesting to friend, follow, or like any of their posts. That would be creepy





So, this is more of a “me” issue than it is for most, but I cannot stand when people try to sell me something through correspondence laden with misspellings, grammatical issues, and insane punctuation.

If you want to be considered a professional, present yourself as one.

Having said that, I also understand that that is easier for some than others. God made calculators just for me, and he may have made Grammarly just for you.

This downloadable angel will analyze your grammar, spelling, and word choice. It goes way beyond the generic spell check and is an intuitive virtual editor. It works in any document you are typing--including emails!


Let's Talk About It

  • Has communication skill been a factor when hiring new sales staff?

  • How to do ensure your staff can communicate the culture of your dealership? (Such as using specific customer-centric words?)

  • When was the last time you spot checked the emails and digital communications going from your dealership to potential customers?  I bet it is time to do that soon.
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It All Comes Back To The Customer Experience


The customer experience is what sets you apart from competing dealerships, and It's time to transform our approach from providing popcorn and balloons to really analyzing how we connect and converse with our customers. Dealerships need to understand who the customer is and then reach them when and where they are. Aimi Gundersen, Project Manager at BetterCarPeople, talks about what happens when dealers ignore customers.

I have two children who are now driving.


In addition to the lack of sleep that I get from constant worry, I am also looking for a vehicle for my daughter. I know the price range and basic model that I would be willing to purchase, and just started my online search.

I have filled out lead forms and interest inquiries to a local dealership I want to work with.

At the time of writing this, I have two generic auto-responses and no original, personal contact.

And I really wanted someone to contact me. I guess I am moving on to the next dealership.

If you think this scenario has not happened in your dealership, you either have an amazing internet process in place or are in denial.

I have studied the many (and I mean many) researched articles which have analyzed the viability of internet leads. These studies were substantial (some up to three years) and analyzed/quantified large amounts of data. From the Harvard Business Review to The Lead Response Management Study, they have all concluded the same results.

10 minutes

That is the amount of time in which you need to respond to a lead.  


10 minutes to send an amazing personalized email or to call a customer. After 30 minutes, the viability of making contact with the potential customer decreases 21%. After an hour, the likelihood drops significantly to almost the same percentage as a cold call (Lead Response Management Study).

That is fine during the day. That time frame should be more than attainable. Regardless of whether or not you have a BDC in place, or an internet team, or if the salespeople are taking turns answering the leads, 10 minutes should not be an issue during normal business hours. After all, an internet lead should be no different than a person walking into the showroom, right?

You could never imagine making a person wait that long to be greeted.

But what about your after-hour leads?

When you close your doors and turn off the lights, how do you reach out to those leads that come in at 9, 10, or 11 pm? There is a dangerous school of thought which deems late night internet leads as nuisances.

Kids on the computer.

People passively searching, but not really serious.

However, we know, and the industry knows, that the internet--specifically mobile--is the way people research their next vehicle purchase. The average car buyer is looking at multiple sources (18.2 ring a bell?) online before she ever steps foot on lot. And by that point, she has by all indication, most likely made her decision.

So when is she shopping? She is shopping after work. After things have settled down and she has time to take a moment for herself. Your digital showroom is open 24 hours a day. We need to treat is as such so we don’t lose valuable customers.

We also know from our research that about 30% of all leads come in after-hours. 30% of your potential business is submitting leads when your not at the dealership.

If you respond with an autoresponder, turn it off. The customer knows you are not working at 1 am and does not expect a call, but would still appreciate some human engagement to tide them over until the next morning. A personalized email answering any questions would do the trick.  Automotive News highlighted this notion in a January article which detailed how autoresponders actually hurt the sales process, the opposite of what was previously thought.

How does this all tie into customer experience? Experience is all about communication. And the way you communicate with your customers dictates the culture and values of your dealership. Communicate in a customer centric way--meet them where they are when they are there.

You need to respect that online customer just as you would the customer who walks into the dealership at 3 pm. Are you missing out on 30% of your business because of poor customer communication?

The dealerships across town may not be….


Let’s Talk About It:

  • What are some areas where your dealership excels in regards to customer experience?
  • How do you communicate with customers after hours?

  • What changes need to be made at your dealerships to improve the overall experience? 


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Is Your BDC Developing Business or Just Confirming it?

Guest blogger Deanna Haynes talks about what a true BDC is supposed to be as opposed to what it has become.

With everything I have to remember to do these days, it would be nice to have my very own personal assistant to remind me when I am due for an oil change.  Adele would be fun, but she might try to call me 1000 times!

That sticker in the upper left-hand corner of my windshield is just not doing it for me anymore.  

Even when I do remember to call and set up my oil change, it’s a hassle.  The phone rings forever, I get put on hold, or worse I get transferred to at least two different people and sometimes (which is one time too many) I get sent to voicemail!  

How is this even possible?

In a world where customer service should be priority #1 and the purchase of a new GM vehicle comes standard with free Onstar maintenance notifications, how is it possible that I am being sent to a voicemail when I call to set up a maintenance appointment?

Now let’s get back to this amazing personal assistant idea that I had.  

If the dealership I bought my GMC Sierra from keeps up with my records, why wouldn’t they call to remind me and set up an appointment for me?  Don’t they have people that do that?  Isn’t that what Onstar is for?  It seems to me this would be a no brainer for a Service Department to have an individual or a group of individuals who were solely responsible for reminding their customers to come back into their dealership to get maintenance done.  

Wouldn’t that just mean more money for the dealership?  

I’ve been told that my dealership has a BDC department specifically for the service department.  So I finally asked what the responsibility of this BDC department is (since I’ve never heard from them).  Apparently they call customers who have scheduled an appointment for service and confirm the appointment.  Maybe I am missing something, but I thought BDC stood for Business Development Center.  Which would imply they develop business, not just confirm it.  

It seems to me that my dealership’s BDC department needs some development of its own.  Maybe they could benefit from some type of training.  I think this little personal assistant idea of mine isn’t so crazy afterall.  

If there were a company (wink wink) that could show my dealership’s BDC department how to call their current customers, remind them that their vehicle is due for maintenance and set up an appointment for them I think that would be a gold mine for the dealership.  

I can’t be the only person who has had this experience trying to set up an appointment with their local service department.  Share your thoughts and experiences with me - together we can help them help us!

Contact BetterCarPeople if you are interested in maximizing your Service BDC!

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Making Sense of the Madness: March Madness and your BDC

March Madness should be a holiday. No one is working anyway, so why not go ahead and just make it official.


Just Sayin’.


While I was watching my Syracuse Orange completely pull away from Middle Tennessee, I started thinking about how they were able to pull it together. What was giving them the kick in the pants to step up their game when they were not really projected to make it past the first round?




I truly believe that having a coach who knows what she/he wants, knows how to get there, and is dedicated makes all the difference in the world.


If you are in charge of a BDC team, you are their coach and they look to you for insight, assistance, and guidance.


Are you providing it to them?


There are some simple things that great coaches do which not only motivate their teams, but also gives them the tools they need to be successful. Here are some insights I have gathered from studying some of the most impactful coaches.


Three Things Good  Great Coaches Do


Know Your Game Plan


I love watching coaches who know their game plan and stick to it. The players are confident, they know what has to be done and when, and they execute well. Syracuse University's Boeheim is the master of this. Zone defense is his language. And even though he is not in the tournament this year (that rant is for another blog), his excellence has never been in question. He knows his game plan and keeps it simple.

Does your BDC have a game plan? Do they know exactly how to respond, who to respond to first, and what they need to say? You are their coach--make sure the plan is understood, implemented, and practiced.

If you are unsure of the plan needed, make sure you consult people who know what they are doing. If you start a BDC or a BDC Culture but do not know exactly what you are expecting, you are destined to either fail or be mediocre. Some may trip and fall into partial success, but it will not be sustainable. If you want deliberate and consistent success, know what you want and map out how you will get there


Know Who You're Up Against


Coaches and their coaching staff spend copious amounts of time watching, analyzing, and picking apart game film. How else will you get an understanding of your competition’s defense and offense, their “go to” guys, and coaching. Doing this homework helps uncover what to focus on and how to prepare.

Do you know who your competition is? Even if you are a rural dealership, there is competition for service. My parents live in rural Upstate NY. They have a dealership 15 miles away, but because they did not like how they were treated, they drive further away to another dealership to get their vehicles serviced.

An hour.

And I am sure they are not the only ones who do that.

Know your competition. Know how they respond to leads and make sure yours are faster and better.  Make the customer experience as positive as possible so that customers choose to come to you.


Play ‘till the Final Buzzer


If you saw the Northern Iowa and Texas game, you know every second counts.  Especially in basketball, 5 seconds can be the difference between winning and losing. Every moment counts, and each of the moments can lead you to either an amazing victory or a soul crushing loss.

Do you play ‘till the final buzzer? Do you answer those leads that come in late with a personalized response, or do you send in the second string auto response and think that it is good enough? I know that when I played (long ago) and the game was close, the starters were the only ones on the court. Why do you let an inferior response go out to the customer? Play strong until the end of the game. Send out a personalized response which addresses customer questions and provides valuable information. That is how you win the game.


Be a Coach or Find a Coach


Could you imagine a team making it to the tournament with no coach? It is ridiculous. The players need coaching--they need someone calling the shots and making sure the game plan is executed.

Now think about your BDC. Too often I have heard BDCs talk about lack of training, lack of knowledge and lack of direction. You cannot be a successful team without leadership, direction, and knowledge. Make sure you offer all three to your BDC or Internet Department. I don’t care if your department has two people or twenty, without knowing the game plan, the direction, and the expectations, they will be nothing but a glorified call center.


Control What You Can, React When You Must


The best coaches and teams control the game. They control the pace, the scoring, and the outcome. There are times, though, when things don’t go quite as planned or scripted. In those moments, the players need to know how to think for themselves and make things happen. Then they know how to think through these situations because they have practiced different situations multiple times.

Does your BDC know how to do this? Scripts are a definite must, but what happens when a customer goes off script? What if they ask questions that requires more than a simple response? The only way to be prepared for these scenarios is to have them practice and practice some more. Think about objections to appointments, how to word responses, and how to seem inviting and friendly over the phone--not pushy and tyrannical. I have avoided dealerships because of poor phone skills and overly pushy appointment setters. Train your department on the art of the question, how to word things in a positive manner, and how to listen.


Let’s Talk About It:


  • Are you a great coach or one who just shows up for games?

  • How are you training your BDC to win?

  • Do you have a BDC for sales and service?
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Long Term or Last Time

Service BDC

Service does not always get the respect it deserves in the dealership. At its worst, it has become an "Us  vs. Them” mentality with the sales department, and at best there is a co-existence that barely crosses paths.


Which is crazy, since Fixed Ops has become the bread and butter for the dealership. In times where new car sales are down and the profit margin on new cars is ever shrinking, there is a 60% average profit margin for automotive service labor. There should be a full blown integration between the departments, but we know that is not happening, especially in the BDCs.

It is time to put some long term thinking into our approach, or it may be the last time we see our customers.


Long Term

Just like with a long-term relationship, there are many things you have to think about before jumping in, and aspects that you must manage to make things work once they get going. A BDC is not a “set it and forget it” product you can buy, but rather a culture that reflects your dealership and attitude towards customer experience.


Experience Must Be At the Forefront

The customer experience is not a luxury or an afterthought, but a necessary aspect of your service department.  59% of customers stated if they were delighted with their service, they would return to the dealership. How you treat your customers will determine whether they come back to your dealership or not. You need to give them a reason to view your service department as their best option for great service.

58% of drivers want to drive their vehicle into the ground and the average age of a car is 11.5 years. These statistics mean two things. 1: Cars are being driven much longer, which means more maintenance. 2: People want to drive their cars until they can no longer run, which means they want regular service.

And honestly, an oil change is an oil change. But knowing that every time you bring your vehicle in for an oil change that factory trained and certified technicians will be working on your vehicle brings the experience to a new level.  

The sparkling waiting room with chargers available does not hurt, either.

But great customer service comes with more than coffee, cookies, and knowing your technician is GM Certified. It comes from the very moment they search you to the minute they pull into your lane.


Optimize Your Digital Presence

How much real estate does service have on your website? For such a revenue generator, I am willing to bet that less than 10% of your website is dedicated to service.  There may be one tab that leads to parts and service, and that is it.

It is time to give more recognition to service on your website.  And a number listed on the upper right hand side and upper tab don’t count.



75% of customers between 18-44 used mobile to search service departments.  Are you prepared for this? If your site is not responsive, then customers will bounce off of it quicker than they found it.

Do you know what responsive means? If not, that is where to start.


Shifts in Spending

Even though we know 53% of all drivers use search when looking for service, we continue to send out mailers and print coupons.  It’s not that they don’t have a place, but there needs to be a higher spend on digital advertising, geo-targeting, and social media and less on old methods that many ignore.


Name Recognition

Make sure the customer knows your dealership by name! That will come with increased digital presence, but also word of mouth. Only 13% of people questioned were aware of their dealership service department.


On that note, 32% of drivers age 18-44 did not know which service center to visit. That number will go down with a really good digital presence. Be the first listing on the SRP when they search service in your area.

If they know your name because they were dissatisfied, don’t ignore it! Customer satisfaction is going down in the service lanes since 2013, and sharing that dissatisfaction is going up. Customers who are less likely to return has dropped 12% in the last three years, and the likelihood to post an online review has risen 17%! The less satisfied they are, the more vocal they are.

If you do things the way they have always been done, you will not worry about this, and in the  process will lose current and future customers. Be forward thinking and respond to customers. Call them when they are dissatisfied and make sure to right any wrongs that may have occurred.

But you need a process to do that!



Training is an investment with multiple layers. Whether you decide to move forward with online training, face to face training, or a blended approach, your training needs to highlight the processes that will make your dealership successful. Process beats talent every day. But process with talent equals incredible success.


Last Time

If you are all about the “This is the way we have ALWAYS done it” mentality, then this is where you will live.  The Last Time way of thinking states that customers come in, get their service done, and leave. There is no special treatment, no reaching customers where they are and meeting their expectations.

This can get very expensive, because with no expectations comes no retention. And then you will be marketing to, calling, and emailing these customers to come back to the dealership.

It would cost a whole lot less to give them a great customer experience in the first place and keep them as customers.


Let’s Talk About It

  • Do you currently have a service specific BDC set up at your dealership?
  • How are you focusing more on long term and less on Last Time?


The Google Path to Purchase article  was the catalyst for this article. The data within is from the Google Research:









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How Ricky Bobby Will Fix Your Service Retention Problem

You may be wondering what the movie Talladega Nights has to do with running an excellent Service BDC. The connection goes a little deeper than NASCAR.   


I am about to make some of your heads spin. I am not a HUGE fan of NASCAR. I feel like that is slightly sacrilegious in this industry, but it is the truth.

I get that it is exciting for the first lap or so, but They are driving in circles.


Now, ask me about Talladega Nights, and I could talk all day about the symbolism of the cars and colors, the metaphors ensconced in Ricky and Cal’s odd, but endearing friendship, and the religious aspects of their obsession with the newborn baby Jesus.


The one lesson that always hit home was “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” You either come out on top, or you are on the bottom. You either win, or you lose.


In life, I am not sure I completely agree with this, but in regards to our customers in the service lane, I would have to support it 100%. The customer experience is key, and if you are not the most invested in this, your customer will find the one who is.


Ricky: “You can’t have two number ones”

Cal: “Yeah...cause that would be 11.”


If you ain’t first, you’re last.


Business Development Centers (BDCs) are the front line for customer service. And now there is a real need for dealerships to have Service BDCs or BDC Cultures. Owners, manufacturer’s and managers recognized that there must be staff dedicated to interacting with, communicating with,  and reaching out to customers. Not everyone wants to do this, but it is a necessary and important role in the dealership. Service BDCs, if implemented well, can be a powerful retention tool and will drive CSI.


Key Elements for Implementing a Productive and Functional Service BDC/ BDC Culture:


Begin with the End in Mind


We called this backmapping in the training industry. In Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby’s dad called it driving with a cougar. He knew the end goal (getting Ricky over his fear) and took action towards the goal. You decide where you want to end up, then plan backwards to determine the actions that must be taken to be successful. You must know what your end goal is with your BDC before you begin implementation.


What is the expected outcome of your BDC? Brainstorm with your team, read about service BDCs, make connections with people who are successfully running BDCs --do the necessary research to create an informed outline for your startup.  


And if you are ready to really move forward, invest in some training. If you want to be successful, you need to start off right!


Identify Your Needs

Not every dealership needs a service BDC, but every dealership does need a BDC culture.  Regardless of which you have, there needs to be specific people assigned to roles. This ensures that there will be some type of accountability in the process


There must be a point person (BDC Manager, Service Manager, Etc…) who will make sure the system is running smoothly.


Next you need employees who can be dedicated to answering phones, e-mailing customers, interfacing with customers--essentially the face of the Service Department. If you know it is not possible to have one person dedicated to that job, make sure the person chosen will be able to reach customers and return calls/emails within 10 minutes of receiving the call/email.




Once you have a dedicated manager, or a person in charge of managing your BDC, you need to make sure you know what you expect and how you expect it to happen.

If you just say “Pick up the phone and start dialing!” you may not get the results you are hoping for.


Before you start, make sure that you have a process in place. Who will be calling? Emailing? When? What is the most optimal time of day to reach customers?


A simple process map will provide great direction to the manager and the team!




The need for customer satisfaction is at an all time high. And depending on your manufacturer, retention can lead to additional funding. Knowing how to communicate effectively, consistently, and properly with customers is a must, and if done well will keep customers coming back for more.


Make sure to train anyone calling or receiving calls from customers the right words to say. Use scripts that reflect your company culture and that highlight customer service. Whether you love or hate Chick-Fil-A, you cannot deny that they have impeccable customer service. That comes from training and practicing the correct word tracks.


How will you evaluate progress? If you begin with the end in mind, you will also need to know the basic metrics you will use to evaluate the growth/ success of the BDC (both individually and as a whole). Metrics are personalized based on the requirements of the dealership--there are very few situations where one size fits all. Plan with leadership, ask questions of people who have already been successful, and move forward.




Know what you expect from your team and make it transparent. When they are emailing, what is their goal for sent emails? When they are calling, how many calls an hour?


Is it enough to just measure calls made, or do you want to look at connections, appointments set, and appointments shown?  


Know what you are measuring, and make sure to let everyone know. That knowledge will lead to success.



A Service BDC cannot just be thrown together and expect success. As with many things in life, vision + plan = successful implementation. Know where you want your Service BDC to go, know the basic metrics you will use to evaluate the success, and start setting more appointments.


Let’s Talk About It:

  • What is your dealership doing to create an amazing customer experience?
  • Do you currently have a devoted service BDC?  Do you think you need one?
  • How do you train your Service BDC?
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Are Customers Leaving You Because of a Bad Website Experience?

Will it take another 10 years for dealers to do something worthwhile with their Service Department? Guest blogger Tiea Roper, Product Manager at BetterCarPeople Education, discusses how far we have come digitally as an industry, and the road we are still on with service.

When this internet thing finally seemed to be passed the point of thinking it was just a “fad,” dealerships jumped on board and got a website (or maybe back then it was a web address.)

Whatever it was, you needed to make sure that every customer who called knew it was there.

Our receptionist at the time spent a lot of time saying “just go to w-w-w dot our new website dot com.”

Looking Back

Looking back, I’m not really sure why we did that. There were no pictures, prices, or any other way to request information. It was just a page that confirmed where we were located, that we sold cars, and displayed the phone number that they just used to call the store.

It goes without saying that I am glad we are so far past that.

At least when it comes to buying cars anyway. But what about service?

We have come a long way in the digital space, but there are still areas that resemble our old ways of utilizing websites. The question remains, when will the Service Department get at least half the attention that the Sales Department has been receiving to stay in the game?

The ideas are there, but at times there is a definite fail in the follow through. However, with every fail it would seem a solution is created.

 Not enough opportunities--Buy some

Too many opportunities for your staff to handle--Start a BDC or hire one

This list goes on and on for ways to attract those customers who may want to come see you. Man, that right there is the kicker! Let me say it again. You will spend thousands of dollars this year on customers who may want to come and buy a car from you! (preach)

Remember that most service opportunities have already purchased a vehicle from you and have a more difficult time remaining with you than the customers you are hoping to attract. Which brings us back to the website.


Moving Forward with Service

Fixed Operations has a very small area of real estate on your W-W-W. It is almost just enough to let people know that you do, in fact, fix cars.

It is hard to compete with places that only provide service when they have a whole website dedicated to such. They have details about brakes, transmission repairs, tires and coupons just waiting for the customers who assume that the local dealership service department charges too much, takes too long and don’t treat their customers right.

Being able to actually schedule service online presents a whole other set of challenges. It is not the customer's concern that your system A does not communicate with system B. They assume that because they were given the option to make an appointment online that it will actually exist when they arrive. I am sure you would agree it makes total sense for that to be the case!

Service of all types is changing at a pace that is hard to keep up with. There was a point in time that we could say “Well, at least  we are better than the cable companies and their ridiculous repair games!” I have not had to request a cable repair service since every commercial on t.v states how they realized that changes needed to be made and they are making them. When are we going to realize the same?

Don’t wait for the manufacturer to demand changes in your process, transparency, and overall customer experience. It should be done because the customer has been begging for it for too long.  Make that a point of discussion within your store or at your next 20 group or service club.

Let me leave you with one hint. My customer experience does not involve getting my nails done in your service lane on Thursday nights.


Let’s Talk About It:

  • What are you doing to step up your customer service?
  • Does Service have a decent amount of real estate on your dealership website?
  • When was the last time you tried to set an appointment for service through your website? Go do it now….
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