That is the question. It’s one of the most common questions I am asked. Certainly because ELEAD1ONE has one of the largest automotive only call centers, and I am, therefore, knowledgeable on the topic, but also because the latest trend is leaning back toward building the BDC in the store. Most people would assume that I am biased against an in-house BDC – not true. I think if done correctly they are a great advantage for dealerships. The downside, however, is the enormous list of challenges that come with building an internal BDC.

The biggest challenge is the human resource issue. Qualified people are hard to find, hard to train, hard to keep and even harder to manage. Lets face it, if great salespeople were easy to find, and were so versatile in their skills that they could easily jump from the showroom floor to the phones to the Internet – successfully scheduling appointments and converting those appointments into sales day in and day out, no dealer would ever dream of adding the expense of any type BDC. The most common rebuttal I hear from dealers when discussing BDC versus VBDC (Virtual BDC) is “why should I pay someone else to do the job my salespeople should already be doing?” My answer is always the same: because typically they are not “wired” for that part of the job.

Look, good salespeople in this business are built for face-to-face interaction. They have the A-type personality traits that lean toward assertiveness, eagerness and thirst for competition -these are good things. We can accept the “no” that often comes with selling and move on to the next opportunity. We have drive and ambition. We thrive in the spotlight and interact well with people. But we also have the patience of a gnat. We see something that is shiny, and we chase after it. So those same good traits also are a detriment to having the patience required for making numerous dials and attempts to get customers back on the phone, and into the store. Additionally, we lack the interaction skills that it takes to be successful when communicating 100 percent verbally. The great presentation skills that a salesperson needs to be successful on the showroom floor do not translate well over the phone or in an email. Until it becomes commonplace to buy a car via Skype or FaceTime, that’s just the way it is.

In my opinion, in order to make an internal BDC thrive, you need a different mindset and need to learn to embrace the various personality traits it takes to breed success. The BDC requires a whole new type of person. Most critically, you have to have someone who can recruit team members, train and manage them, and then do it all again because of the high turnover rate. You could consider investing further in an outside company to train and recruit, further increasing the cost factor if you don’t have that supervisory person available or if who you do have in place leaves for a better pay plan at Down the Street Motors. As the great orator Notorious BIG said, “mo money, mo problems.” Any business leader or GM will tell you, one of the biggest challenges in any company is managing people and/or their issues. The bigger you get, then the more employees you have with issues: HR, conflict, training, production, execution, and so many countless outside influences. In other words, you have to weigh the potential success against the challenges that go along with it.

So how do you solve this riddle? Well, obviously I could recommend an outside company to handle your BDC tasks for you, taking those risks on themselves, and in almost all cases, significantly reducing that cost and liability, all while working seven days a week without vacations or HR issues. Oh, and you could always fire them without any retribution. But that would be biased and self-serving. My recommendation if you have your heart set on building a BDC internally, or if your manufacturer for some reason insists that this will be a good thing for you, start small and make it a hybrid. Leverage a great company that can do the heavy lifting for you by making the thousands of dials it takes each month, even for a medium sized store, to connect with all of your customers – past, present and potential. At the same time, have a two-person team serve as your internal BDC. Let them handle the communication hand-off and add that personal touch. They can confirm appointments, answer additional questions for the hand-raisers that are reached by the VBDC. They can add your culture to the conversation and concentrate on those that may need more attention versus dedicating an entire team to finding those potential targets. You can do this at a drastically reduced cost from setting up a five-to-six person BDC that also needs to be managed adding even more cost.
Once you have this process down (your vendor should help you fine-tune it) you can expand.

My recommendation for the next step is to start with your internal BDC answering incoming service calls – they are easier calls, and you will see immediate ROI lift with additional appointments and service RO’s. Just like salespeople, Service Advisors are built for a different experience and working the phones is not one of their strong suits. I understand that there are exceptions and that there are dealerships that have that one special person who can do both, but the majority in our industry do not fall in that category. If they did then you would not be considering any BDC, virtual or otherwise. The process would already execute successfully, and you would have more important problems to focus on, like needing more service bays or techs or more vehicles to sell. Now, those are great problems to have!