Better Car People Blog

Great Service BDCs: Lessons from Talladega Nights

If you ain’t first, you’re last.

~Ricky Bobby

I am not a wealth of knowledge when it comes to NASCAR. I love watching it, but could not tell you why drivers do what they do.

Now, ask me about Talladega Nights, and I go on 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.

However, 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 relating with our customers, I would have to support it 100%. If you are not the most helpful, the most friendly, and the most invested in your dealership, 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 are the front line for this customer service. And now there is the push, or possibly a need, for dealerships to have Service BDCs. Owners, manufacturer’s and managers recognized that they could be missing out on service opportunities because of missed calls, un-returned emails, and missed appointments. There must be staff dedicated to interacting with, communicating with,  and reaching out to customers. Not everyone wants to do this--nor does everyone have the skill to positively relate to customers. However, it is a necessary and important role in the dealership. Service BDCs, if implemented well,  can be a wonderful development and retention tool which will drive CSI and retention.

3 Key Elements for Implementing a Productive and Functional Service BDC:

Begin with the End in Mind--

We called this back mapping when I was in the education 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, join forums, make connections with people who are successfully running BDCs --do the necessary research to create an informed outline for your startup. Below is a list of major elements that need to be in the forefront when creating the Service BDC.

  • Staff--Who will make up the Service BDC? The first position to assign is the manager of the new team. Depending on the size of your dealership, this could be a newly hired Service BDC manager, the manager of the Sales BDC, or the Service Director or Manager. Once decided, you must next choose the team. The goal of the service BDC is to free up the writers, managers, etc to do their job and not have their time taken by answering service leads, setting appointments, and responding to customer emails. It makes no sense to take an already overworked employee and assign them as part of the BDC. You may need to choose someone 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. 0% of calls to dealership service departments either go unanswered or go to the wrong person. Choose people who are customer orientated and quick learners.
  • Increase CSI/Customer Retention-- The need for customer satisfaction is at an all time high. And depending on your manufacturer, it can lead to additional funding (SFE money). A happy customer is a repeat customer. Your BDC must be in the business of customer service, which means they are also increasing retention. How will your BDC team increase CSI and Retention?
  • Increase R/O--The ability to increase revenue through additional services is another function of the Service BDC.  They must have adequate product knowledge to be able to offer additional services in an informative and educated way.
  • Evaluate your 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.

Check back next week for part two of  “BDC Lessons from Talladega Nights," which will focus on the additional two elements and how to implement these ideas.  I will also include great places to gather quality information and training!.


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.


Published on April 13, 2015 by Better Car People.

Does Price Matter?

Does Price Matter?

I know that seems like a foolish question--of course it matters. A low price price evokes the feelings of value. A higher cost may connotate a high quality product.

But price won't come into play if you cannot connect with your customer, begin a relationship,  and show the value of what your providing.

That first response to a customer is one of the most critical in the evolution of the sales process. How you respond, the information given, and the quality of content develops the reputation of your dealership.

Your response will also leave the customer asking questions such as:

  • Does the dealership care what I really want?
  • Is there a real person looking at my inquiry, or is it just an automated response?
  • Are they trying to help me, or are they only focused on selling?

With so much transparency online, it would seem needless to make pricing an issue. It is an issue, though, and customers still ask for best pricing--generally within the first contact.

How does your dealership handle direct inquiries and questions concerning pricing?

Pricing  is one element of a response or first contact that generates discussion. Should BDC representatives be allowed to give a "best price" over the phone? When the price is lower than advertised online, does that make the dealership look deceitful? Does pricing bring the customer into the dealership? There are many elements of pricing that could make a deal go terribly wrong or wonderfully right. But pricing should never been seen as the primary focus of any first response.

Here is why:

You may ignore the customer's needs.

When the primary focus is on pricing, you may not pay attention to what the customer is truly looking for. Your BDC is the voice of your dealership--and that voice sometimes needs to stop giving information, start asking questions,  and listen to the customer. Appointment setting is the general metric for gauging the effectiveness of the BDC, you will not set as many appointments without asking questions and evaluating the needs of the person calling. If a customer feels validated and listened to--not bullied or pressured-- they are more likely to continue working with your dealership.  

You lose the opportunity to create value in other vehicles.

When a customer is looking for a vehicle, they may be initially sold on one specific car.  Statistics show, though, that even when most customers come in with a specific vehicle in mind, it is not the vehicle, but rather the features that he/she is looking for.  Over 50% of customers leave with a different vehicle than originally researched.  How you ask questions and guide the customer will open the customer to discussing a variety of vehicles. Pricing can turn someone off, but open ended, engaging questions generally won’t. And when you ask questions--and LISTEN to the response--you will not only know exactly what the customer needs, but will also be able to offer more options to the customer. And more options will increase your chance of setting an appointment and closing the sale.

You lose the value of the relational sale.

Relationships still rule when it comes to sales. People buy from people. While pricing and trade-in value is still a variable, relationships are a constant.  Who is the face and voice of your dealership? Your front line-your sales reps, your BDC--whoever is on the phone when a customer calls. That is the initial issue that needs to be addressed before anything else can be adjusted. One of the biggest trepidations people have when purchasing a car is having to deal with a salesperson whom they don’t trust, and you do not want to lost that trust through mis-information or poorly trained BDC reps.. The most important skill to selling online is perfecting phone skills. And through good phone skills you can improve the trust value.

When Pricing is a Must:

Be industry experts instead of price checkers.

When customers call, your BDC or sales team should be the product experts. When you are shopping for something specific and ask questions, you expect an answer and you expect it to be correct. Why should your BDC be any different? Ensure your front line is the SME. Make sure that when a potential customer calls, they know how to 1) Answer the question or 2) know how to talk with the customer as they find the answer.

With 54% of all sales coming from the internet, and almost 100% of Smartphone users shopping online before going on-lot, you want to make sure you are prepared for your customers because they are definitely prepared for you. There are many options for them--don’t fool yourself into thinking you have a monopoly on car sales in your area. While pricing is a factor, customer service can be a deal breaker.

Don’t lose a sale because of poor customer skills or lack of training.



Published on April 09, 2015 by Better Car People.

Feature Friday: Holiday Scheduling? Yes, Please!

Happy Easter! Happy Birthday! Happy 4th of July!

Whether it's the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, holidays throw a wrench in scheduling and answering leads. Time off, parties, illness, and vacations take valuable employees away from their regular tasks. This can increase the time it takes to answer a lead--or even worse, it can mean unanswered leads.

Overnight BDC works for you 24/7/365 and we never take a vacation. A lead comes in on Easter Morning? We will answer it in 10 minutes or less. New Year’s Eve at 11:45 pm? We've got it.

How about meetings that come up in the middle of the day? Nothing is more frustrating than being in a meeting and having people on their phones answering leads. Or even worse, having the leads unanswered.

We have the solution. You can turn us on and off with a click. Going into a meeting? Turn us on. Have a training session? Turn us on. Then, when everything is over, you can simply log into the dashboard and turn us off.  You have complete control of when you use Overnight BDC and when you answer your leads yourself.

Or you can leave us on all of the time. Regardless, you know your leads are answered professionally, personally, and originally.



Published on April 03, 2015 by Better Car People.

Mark Franklin Takes Indianapolis by Storm!

Mark Franklin was off again traveling to Indianapolis-- home of a speedway (you may have heard of it), the Colts, and an amazing steakhouse called St. Elmo.

While he did have some interesting experiences, like meeting Andrew Luck's personal coach Pep Hamilton at the airport, he went to Indianapolis to talk automotive.

And he is really, really good at that.

He was there to speak to General Motors Service Managers/Directors/ and Fixed Operations managers about current automotive trends, current issues within Service Departments,  and BetterAppointments for OnStar. The GM reps always love Mark's ability to understand the requirements of the manufacturer while also "getting" what  Service  goes through on a daily basis. 


Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, IN.

Keith Huettl, Professor at Ivy Tech, starts off the Service Club Meeting right!

Keith Huettl, Professor at Ivy Tech, starts off the Service Club Meeting right!

The meeting began in the Ivy Tech Community College Classroom.  So many people ready to learn!

The meeting began in the Ivy Tech Community College Classroom.  So many people ready to learn!

Mark Franklin with some of General Motor's finest. Rhenea Culp (RCRM), Gary Hambelton (DMA), Nicole Black(DMA), Greg Wright(DMA), Mark  Wiegand (DMA)

Mark Franklin with some of General Motor's finest. Rhenea Culp (RCRM), Gary Hambelton (DMA), Nicole Black(DMA), Greg Wright(DMA), Mark  Wiegand (DMA)

Very progressive and cutting edge classrooms . This is where students get a hands on education with a variety of GM vehicles.

Very progressive and cutting edge classrooms . This is where students get a hands on education with a variety of GM vehicles.

Another view of the classroom/training bay.

Another view of the classroom/training bay.

Mark Franklin and Stan Shelton A free Kindle Fire? Yes, please! Stan Shelton won the BetterCarPeople Kindle Fire Give Away. 

Mark Franklin and Stan Shelton

A free Kindle Fire? Yes, please! Stan Shelton won the BetterCarPeople Kindle Fire Give Away. 


Published on April 01, 2015 by Better Car People.

When Should You Kiss Your Customers?

Yes--KISS your customers.

Would they get freaked out?


So, thankfully I am talking about KISS as the acronym. Go ahead and put your chapstick away.


Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Now, I am not in love with the stupid part, but keeping it simple is necessary when talking to customers--especially customers looking to purchase a car.

How many times have we potentially talked a customer out of a car because we sent an email with too much, overly complicated, overly specific information. OR we were on the phone with a customer and over-answered questions which introduced new, more complex questions. It is time to apply KISS to our connections and conversations with our customers.

Here are some steps that will help guide your BDC or Internet Department towards the simple and effective way to communicate with your customers in an honest, transparent, and positive way.

Use Scripts

There is always the discussion of whether scripts make your BDC sound….well scripted. That is why it is so important to have good scripts that are conversational and ask questions. On almost every forum or discussion group I am a part of, there are new as well as seasoned BDC managers looking for quality, interactive professional scripts. They are out there--some much better than others. Regardless of where you get them, you must always:

Make sure they reflect the tone of your dealerships and your customer. If you are in NYC, ya’ll would not fly like it does here in NC

Introduce the script to the rest of the BDC. Don’t only hand the script to your team and say “Go!” Train them on inflection, pace, and tone. And most importantly, train them on the importance of the “pause and listen.” How can you help your customer find the perfect car for them if you won’t listen to their needs and desires?

While scripts are important, it is never good to sound like you are scripted. Sounding natural always trumps reading off a paper. That is why the next step is so important.

Keep Conversation Practiced and Simple

No one wants to hear this, but the most effective way to Keep Things Simple is to practice your craft. If your only job is to converse with potential customers, you need to practice what you are going to say in any scenario. Trying to find words while attempting to set an appointment with a customer is the least effective way to communicate--and it makes you look unprepared. Take time every day to rehearse possible scenarios and conversations that could take place. The more rehearsed, the more confident. And confidence is very evident over the phone.

Practice your script until it becomes part of who you are. Then, practice answering potential questions. Brainstorm with your fellow co-workers to discuss all of the possible objections or questions, and then create excellent responses. This way you are prepared for 80% of all conversations. There will always be that 20% where you have to think on your feet. But the practicing will help prepare you for that as well.

Educate Educate Educate

In a past life I was a teacher. And we had a saying. “You can’t expect students to do it if you don’t teach it. And model it. And teach it again.”

If you want High School students to learn how to enter a classroom without acting like a pack of wild animals, you teach them how to walk into class. And you keep teaching it until everyone gets it. The same can be said of adults learning new concepts.  How can you expect a behavior without explaining and modeling it first?

After a while, they get it. They know what is expected and they do it without thinking.

Makes sense, right?

We need to do the same in our dealerships. Teach your team exactly what you want them to do, practice it, evaluate it, and then remediate when needed. They are the front line of your dealership--they are the reputation, the voice, and the possibly the first point of contact with potential customers. The conversation they have, and how they react to and with customers, could make an amazing experience or turn a customer away.

Invest in your team--and invest in best practices. This investment almost always comes in the form of training.

Take Away

This may seem overly simplistic, but these are the foundations for our communication skills. With so many new and innovative ways to interact with our customers, there are some basic realities that cannot be ignored. Innovation is awesome and exciting, but the basics are necessary to push innovation forward.



Published on March 31, 2015 by Better Car People.

March Madness: 5 Ways Your BDC Could Go All The Way

Okay, so my brackets, like many of yours, are already a hot mess. UCLA beat SMU; UAB over Iowa State; Georgia State defeated Baylor--and those were just on Thursday! It was the perfect storm for my March Madness experience.

As I was setting fire to my brackets yesterday, I started thinking about how the tournament was similar to dealerships, how we sell cars, and the competition involved. Seriously--there are some pretty solid comparisons between basketball and moving metal. If you want your BDC to perform better than your brackets, here are five hints to help move things along.

Five Ways Your Dealership Could Go All the Way:

5) Keep the game plan simple.

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.

4) Know your competition.

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. 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 drove an hour away to another dealership to purchase a truck.

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 and not to the dealership.

3) Play ‘till the final buzzer.

If you saw Georgia State’s coach fall out of his chair, you know that the game is not over until the buzzer sounds. 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.

2) The team needs to be coached.

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 followed.

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.

1) 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.

Take Away:

  • The automotive industry is a definitely competition--make sure you are prepared.

  • Be the Coach K of your dealership! Strong leadership and direction are a must.

  • Play till the final buzzer. No matter what the time, respond

Published on March 23, 2015 by Better Car People.

A BetterCarPeople Photo Essay--Mark Franklin, a GM Service Club, and Lots of Snow!

We are definitely Southerners. We love our sweet tea, our sunshine, and our flip-flops. But when we get a chance to speak at Service Clubs in the north during the winter, we get excited! The beautiful snow, the white-capped mountains, and the ice hanging from the rooftops is beautiful. (And we know we get to go home to 70 degree weather in a few days!)

Mark Franklin, our National Sales Representative who specializes in General Motors Sales and Service Leads, had the opportunity to go to Eagle Mountain this past week. The area was breathtaking, the people were wonderful, and Mark had great things to say about NH and Maine!

MF 4.jpg

The Eagle Mountain House in NH was the location for the Service Club. It looks like a image from a movie.

Another view of Eagle Mountain House

Covered Bridge in Jackson, NH--it's  like stepping back in time.

The GM Service Club was packed with Service Managers, Directors, GM Representatives. The day was filled with discussing the direction of GM service, the future,  and how BetterCarPeople can help! Mark, along with Bethany Gerry, explained BetterAppointments for OnStar and how it saves the service department time and makes them money.

GM Service Club--there was much good feedback from the people in attendance as well as the GM Reps. 

Mark had a chance to grab some pictures on the way out after the meeting. 

Overall, the meeting was a great success. BetterCarPeople's continued partnership with General Motors has been a successful one--and one that continues to grow!


Published on March 18, 2015 by Better Car People.