When fishing, a net will usually yield a better return than a fishing pole. At Rogers Auto Group in Chicago, Ill., David Ortiz understands and employs this concept to drive traffic to the dealership. Although he’s the BDC manager, he also manages the dealership Web site, which is where most dealership traffic is spawned.
Prior to managing the BDC, he was a special finance manager at Rogers Auto, which houses Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Hyundai franchises. However, when the SF market began to change in mid-2008, Ortiz’s role at the Windy City dealership changed. “A lot of guys had to be a little bit more dynamic, so we started taking on different roles,” he said. At another dealership, he’d worked in the Internet department, so he felt like he could make the greatest contribution at Rogers Auto doing Internet and business development work.
The BDC at Rogers Auto was one dedicated to special finance and expanded in mid-2008 due to the dramatic shift in the special finance market. The BDC’s sole responsibility used to be working third-party SF leads, which Ortiz said require a little “more tender love and care” than traditional leads. “In the first week with subprime leads, it’s very important that you stay in immediate contact with them … On normal leads – new car leads, prime leads – call in the morning [if the lead is received the night before] or call right away. Give them a call later in the evening and give them a call the next day. Then after that … spread it out a little further.”
Although the dealership still works SF leads, now the primary goal of the BDC is to drive traffic to the Web site and dealership. It handles organic Internet leads, responds to leads generated from inventory listings on third-party sites, and works purchased leads.
As for a process on working leads, Ortiz’s BDC representatives are well-trained and allowed to follow-up with customers at their discretion, as opposed to having a set process in writing. He feels that the representatives are the ones working with the customers and can judge how and when to follow-up. Naturally, the dealership has a CRM system that keeps representatives on task by updating the status of leads and creating daily work plans, and to ensure continued communication with customers, it automates some e-mail communications like appointment reminders and auto-responses to customers who e-mail the dealership after-hours.
The bulk of the leads the BDC works are generated by the dealership’s Web site, and about 16 percent of those turn into sales. Another plentiful source of leads is a new chat service Ortiz added to his Web site. He said, “The great thing was that the live chat didn’t change the amount of calls, traffic or e-mail leads that we received, but it created this whole other area of leads that I’m not sure we would have received in the past.” A third-party provider, Today’s Dealer Solutions, responds to the chats and helps the customer in whatever manner necessary, and the chat transcripts are sent back to Ortiz for review and for the BDC to work as leads if the customers are looking for a vehicle.
While chat is an immediate-response method of communication, Ortiz doesn’t see it as something to “immediately sell [customers] a car through.” He said, “If handled properly, live chat is more to give and receive information to the customer, as well as find out what they’re looking for … Sometimes people are looking for hours, directions [or] service coupons.”
Recently, the dealership started trolling the waters of social networking as another way to create relationships with customers and drive traffic to the dealership’s main site. Ortiz manages the dealership’s Facebook page, and will get actively involved on Twitter as soon as the dealership’s new Web site launches, which is in the very near future.
Ortiz was spot-on when he felt like the BDC was where he could best help the dealership; he transformed a one-man BDC to a four-man BDC and plans to expand it further throughout 2010. After about a year under his management, the number of sales attributable to the BDC increased by about 50 percent and he has maintained the increase into 2010. Ortiz said, “I think the Cash For Clunkers [program] made everybody really aggressive and just kind of woke everyone up, and it’s been a matter of staying consistent.” He added that the BDC is currently working very well with the sales department.
Around the time of the Clunkers program, Ortiz said the BDC changed its mindset on dealing with customers a bit. “We changed [to] a little bit more of information-giving [mindset], as opposed to just getting people in.” He said sometimes BDC employees get caught up in setting appointments because part of their compensation is based simply on the number of appointments set, which is why BDC employees at Rogers Auto are instead paid on appointments that “show and sell”, along with an hourly wage. They’re also required to have a certain amount of shows each month.
To help with performance, Ortiz generates charts displaying each BDC employee’s monthly statistics, which creates a little competition and motivates his team. One hard rule regarding e-mails dictates how long a representative has to respond, which helps the competitive spirit among BDC employees. If they don’t respond to a lead within 15 minutes, the CRM system automatically redirects the lead to another employee. “When we are here, we’re responding to [e-mails] within a minute to two minutes … It’s good to have competitive guys in the BBC department, but not necessarily overly competitive.”
While the competition helps them perform, Ortiz stressed the importance of focusing on the customers and answering their questions. “Customers don’t necessarily want to talk to salespeople upon [calling or e-mailing]. They really just want the information without trying to be sold, and we want to try to emphasize that we’re not trying to sell a car over the phone … So when they come in, they get introduced to the [BDC representative] they were talking to and then … turned over to a salesperson.” He added that the BDC staff lets customers know that they’re available if they need to talk throughout this process.
The approach apparently works because even though BDC representatives aren’t paid on how many customers show up for their appointments, about half of them show. For appointments that don’t show, Ortiz steps in to make a follow-up phone call. “As a third person, I’ll call them up and see how everything is going. Sometimes you get an idea of why they didn’t show,” he said. He considers it part of his job to try to get them to set another appointment and show.
By the third quarter of 2010, Ortiz hopes to have a full-blown BDC, which would help business development throughout the entire dealership. “All we’re handling right now is Internet leads … We’ll expand it to start handling all the phone calls, and once we start handing all the phone calls, we’ll expand it a little bit further to handle all the service calls and all the service appointments. Then, we’ll go from there.” He wants to take “baby steps” with the evolution of the BDC, so the whole dealership understands the role of the BDC and works with it. “A lot of it has to do with the employees in a dealership buying into the programs … it’s a gradual change.”
Vol. 7, Issue 3