Published in Automotive

Retail Auto: Developing “Customers for Life” with Outbound Programs!

Service BDC 2.0

“Catching the call” is the primary objective for service BDCs. It’s the main reason they are launched and first and foremost in the minds of service managers and GMs. That’s still valid. But there’s a number two priority that will be just as important for the future, in fact, it already is with the OEMs.

Innovative OEMs are setting the pace by rewarding their dealers with impressive cash incentives for meeting retention goals. At the same time, there’s been an increase in inspecting retention benchmarks, and the upholding of expectations.

More and more automakers are finally realizing that it’s far less costly and makes much more sense to sell to a repeat customer than to a new one. Besides that, with a plateauing sales environment, conquest sales will be casting a much wider net geographically; making it more challenging than ever to lure those out-of-area sales back to the selling dealer for service…and ultimately their next vehicle purchase.

The Challenge

Plateauing sales mean that Fixed Ops will be carrying more and more of the revenue load. In order to do that, dealers will need to create or expand their Service BDC’s outbound efforts; to convince newly sold and existing customers to return for service. Problem is, most service BDCs are so consumed with fielding the daily inbound traffic, (much of which are non-appointment calls), that their outbound effort becomes little more than an afterthought.

So, what happens to the outbound, follow-up efforts? Truth is, those efforts aren’t going to ever be made at worst, or poorly made at best. Most service BDCs have not recruited, trained and managed agents with the specific skill sets required to entice past sold customers to return for service. And it’s a much tougher sell than the inbound call.

Instead, many service BDCs attempt to draw from their original inbound group, usually a team totally steeped with inbound skills, to switch back and forth between inbound appointment calls and outbound retention (sales) calls. Management assumes that the same inbound agent can handle outbound calls with a high rate of success.

But that’s a mistake! If tapping existing inbound agents to convert to an outbound mode is the best that you can do, then you probably need to find a better way.

Bringing back just sold and existing clients, who have forgotten or already made a conscious decision not to return for service is a tough task, to say the least. Those just sold and existing customers are critical for future sales. In fact, the 2018 Cox Automotive Service Industry Study reveals that 74% of those sold customers who returned for service in the first 12 months were 74% more likely to return for their next …versus a 35% return for purchase rate for those who did not return for service. Those stats should get every automotive store’s attention!

The Solution

Below are the top three imperatives that must be put in place to create and manage our outbound initiative:

  1. A leadership (store GM & service management) commitment to allocate enough budget and resources to specifically recruit, train and support a dedicated and autonomous outbound unit

This imperative will ultimately make or break the success of a service BDC outbound unit. However, this can be a challenge for store leadership, especially for GMs who might still believe that service BDCs primarily “catch the call”. They aren’t truly aware of the propensity of returning service customers to return for their next vehicle purchase (Cox stats above).  Convincing them can be a tough sell!

  1. Creating a different curriculum for training the outbound team…steeped in sales abilities required to convince non-returning existing customers to come back for service

As mentioned above, the outbound agent needs to possess the ability to think beyond the appointment and not only possess interpersonal skills but closing abilities as well.  This can be a challenge for the training group who spend most of their time teaching and coaching inbound agents. Call scripts, voice messages, emails and texts will have to be much more compelling!

  1. Placing just as much emphasis on “relationship development” as you do for closing the appointment

This is a biggie! Most dealerships possess a transactional mindset, and that same mindset exists in many service centers as well. Developing an outbound culture based equally on making the appointment, as well as cultivating the relationship, is much tougher than just scheduling service.

“Reminder” calls will deliver a certain amount of success, but not near that of a service “sales call” aimed at persuading a customer who has bypassed your service department.

Can your leadership commit to the above imperatives for a successful “outbound” retention effort?

It’s an old adage in dealership culture that nothing happens until someone sells something but there’s an unknown saying that should accompany that thought: Nothing happens to turn that sold customer into a customer for life, until you have successfully invited them back.