Article

Attracting, Training and Hiring for a BDC or Call Center: Industry Experts Weigh In

August 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jennifer Murphy Bloodworth - Also by this author

The success of a BDC or call center is heavily dependent on having well-trained employees. Dealers can’t haul just anyone in off the street to work their phones and expect things to go well. The selection process of hiring the right employees coupled with a motivating compensation plan and intensive and ongoing training will yield the best results.

What to Look for in New Hires
“A BDC is a marketing department and communications center for the dealership,” said Lawson Owen, managing partner of Proactive Dealer Solutions. Therefore, properly staffing this department is essential.

Perhaps the most important BDC or call center employee is the manager (BDM or CCM). “It starts with the manager,” said Hugh Hathcock, owner of eLEAD CRM, a division of Fresh Beginnings. He also said a good manager is “by far the toughest thing to find and keep!”

According to industry experts, when hiring for a BDC or call center, dealers or hiring managers should look for certain traits in potential hires. A business development manager (BDM), according to Hathcock, should be detailed, organized, and able to communicate well because he or she must work with customers and employees from multiple departments. Based on his experience, this is a high-turnover position.

Business development expert Glynn Rodean of New Vision Sales said, “Just know that the most important person to hire is the business development manager.” He warned against hiring the wrong BDM. “A BDC, regardless of the best training or consulting money can buy, will always take on the personality of the BDM.”

When hiring a business development or call center representative (BDR or CCR), again, there are certain traits to look for, but they are different than what you look for in a manager. “We primarily look for females because we think they’re a little less disarming, and we look for people who don’t have call center or retail car experience. What we’re really trying to do is find people that have good personalities that like to talk on the phone,” said Hathcock. While the 600+ operators in the eLEAD CRM Call Center utilize scripts, Hathcock said good representatives will modify the script to match their personality.

According to Joe Courrege, president of Media Resource Group (which operates a call center), good BDRs are sales-oriented, while serving the customer at the same time. He said, “We look for people that are people-people that can connect and say, ‘oh gosh, let me encourage you … we can be very helpful to you today.’” He also gives potential hires the Myers-Briggs personality test, which is used as an indicator on whether they’re good for the job.

The Myers-Briggs personality test classifies people as one of 16 different categories. According to the Myers and Briggs Foundation (www.MyersBriggs.org), the questions are designed to determine whether an individual is introverted or extroverted, how an individual takes in information, how an individual makes decisions, and how one structures his or her opinions.

Training for Lasting First Impressions
“From my experience, the telephone is the ‘front line’ of the car business,” said Rodean. Whether starting up a BDC or call center or adding staff to an existing one, initial training must be thorough. This type of training can’t be done in a day.

Newly-hired representatives in Courrege’s call center are trained for a week, and before they are on the phones by themselves, they’re on the phones with a manager who’s listening and coaching as needed. He said, “We do role-playing, and then we put on these double sets of headphones and we’re listening to a conversation between the [customer and the representative]. And we’re coaching the [representative] … but the customer can’t hear.”

While they’re trained with a script in place, Courrege said it’s more of an outline to follow rather than a script.
The first part of the script outlines how the representative is supposed to engage the customer and acknowledge that he or she can help solve the customer’s problem. He said they must learn how important it is “to know the condition of your customer” because most people have issues—credit problems, divorce, a high-mileage vehicle, etc. He trains representatives to let customers on the phone know the dealership can work with or help fix issues.

Part two of the script/outline is alerting the customer of any promotion or particular campaign running that day. This creates a call-to-action to get the customers in during a certain time period to reap the benefit(s) of the promotion. Courrege offered an example of giving a coupon towards the purchase of a vehicle to callers who show for an appointment on the same day they are called.

The next step, part three of the Media Resource Group script/outline, is to set an appointment. Representatives give callers specific options when setting appointments. They might say, “I’ve got appointments available at 10:00, 2:00 and 4:00, or I could squeeze you in some other time. Which do you prefer—10, 2 or 4?” Some other trainers prefer to offer options for times like 1:15 or 3:15, believing that the customer is more likely to remember and keep the appointment.

An extension of step three is to direct customers to ask for a specific person when they get to the dealership. The representatives also tell the customers what they need to bring with them to the dealership, which increases the odds for an immediate delivery.

And it’s important for BDRs and CCRs to keep control of the conversation. Courrege said, “The objective is to get them in the dealership, not to get into a question-and-answer session for an hour.” He added, “If you start talking price and interest rates over the phone, you might lose your shot at working with them.”

Shadowing on the showroom floor also helps representatives learn the ropes. Media Resource Group takes representatives in training to a dealership, so they’ll have a better understanding of the entire process. “We take them to the dealership floor and observe what happens when the appointment shows up.”

Hathcock suggested dealers should hire a professional trainer to train new BDC employees “unless they have a manager in place that’s run a BDC before … There’s so much that’s got to be done, if you’re not going to outsource it, you’ve got to go to a company that has the capacity to put a trainer in place.”

He added that while some of the training must be done in the dealership, “We always recommend off-location [training] when we can because it’s very difficult for [trainees] to stay focused at the dealership.” Hathcock conceded that some in-dealership training is necessary, especially upon implementation of a BDC or call center. His eLEAD CRM trainers are often in a dealership for one week to train and help implement an in-store BDC, and after that, his trainers make monthly visits to the dealership.

Courrege summed up initial training well; he said you have to have skill, a heart for the customer, and knowledge and understanding of the business.

Continuing Training
Initial training is just not enough. Call center representatives and BDRs are on the phone every day, all day, and to keep their skills sharp, dealers should institute regular ongoing training.

Courrege recommends having training sessions at least once a week. He trains his call center employees every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but added that the average dealer probably doesn’t have the time to train quite that often. While that may seem like a lot of ongoing training, these sessions don’t have to take up an entire afternoon. They can be as simple as the BDM or CCM sitting down with representatives for 10 to 30 minutes a week to cover any upcoming ad campaigns that will be generating calls, new customer objections, or particular practices the manager has noticed that need a little rebuffing.

Courrege added that even veteran representatives can become a little lax in the way they handle calls. For example, he’s heard some of his better representatives simply ask customers what the best time for them is rather than offering specific appointment times. If you’re a BDM or CCM and you hear a representative say, “Well, what time can you come in?”, it’s time to retrain on the specifics of nailing down an appointment time.

These ongoing training sessions present an opportune time to answer employee questions, so everyone can hear both the question and answer. It’s also a good time to review whether the set goals are being met—both departmental and individual.  While it’s tough to pin down goals for a BDC or call center because of the various types of incoming and outgoing calls and/or e-mails, Courrege said 10 calls an hour per representative is a good goal if the representatives are “strictly making appointments from a campaign.”

Rodean, who expects 150 dials per day from those he trains, said, “You have to understand that a BDR may have to call a home number, work number and maybe a cell just to reach a customer. That’s three dials.” If executed properly, the dials for one day should add up to more than five appointments that show.

Compensate Wisely
Compensation for any dealership position varies by region or market, but they all have to be competitive to retain good people. Courrege noted that BDC and call center representatives are “not menial workers.” Rather, they’re skilled employees who help uphold the reputation of the dealership. While a dealer can most likely hire representatives for $10 an hour, Courrege said, “that’s what you’ll get,” referring to the adage, you get what you pay for. He said the representative who gets the customer to the dealership is “just as important as the guy making the deal.”

The majority of trainers agree that compensation should be based on performance. How much of it is performance based is up for debate. Additionally, there are some differences in opinions on what performance is. Hathcock said, “I always believe in a performance-based pay plan in a BDC … you’ve got to pay [BDC employees] not just on appointments set, but [also on] appointments that show and cars that close.”

Such pay plans are beneficial for two reasons. One, training is such an investment that dealers want to keep turnover in the department as low as possible, and two, this type of pay plan gives employees more incentive to set appointments that show and buy.

Rodean takes a slightly different approach when it comes to compensation plans. He suggested “a small base salary plus a performance bonus based purely on appointments set for the BDRs.” His reasoning is that BDRs should be focused on setting appointments that show, rather than pre-qualifying customers. “Any person can buy if they have the right motivation, and that is up to the sales team.”

Keep in mind that the best compensation plans, regardless of structure, won’t mean anything if you don’t hire the right people or you fail to train them. It is only through careful thought and effort in all three areas that you will find success for your BDC.

Vol 5, Issue 7

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