On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome back Sarah Vantine, BDC Director for Scott Clark Auto Group out of Charlotte, NC. Since we last spoke to Sarah, she has continued to grow and expand Scott Clark Auto’s BDC strategy to include finance and additional sales opportunities.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi, everyone. Jim Fitzpatrick, thanks so much for joining me on another edition of CBT news. Today, we’re delighted to have back to the show, Sarah Vantine and she is the BDC director at Scott Clark Auto. I know that you’ve seen her before on CBT news. So thank you for joining us once again Sara.
Sarah Vantine: Thank you.
Jim Fitzpatrick: So, bring us up to speed. It’s been about a year I think since we spoke to you last, what have you been up to?
Sarah Vantine: So we’ve been continuing to develop our BDC program for all three of our Scott Clark stores. We’ve added finance to our BDC and we’ve also taken on some additional sales opportunities too. So now we’re just really tackling pretty much every department.
Jim Fitzpatrick: So BDC and finance, usually those two things haven’t gone in the same sentence before. So talk to me about that.
Sarah Vantine: So what we’ve started is the same thought process that we did for service. One of the biggest complaints that we’ve had over the last year with our stores is that once the person purchases a vehicle, if they have any additional questions about their extended warranties, want to upgrade their policies, or ask general questions about that. They haven’t been able to get ahold of their finance manager, which makes a lot of sense because if they’re busy selling cars then they’re not going to necessarily be available by phone.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.
Sarah Vantine: So what we’ve done now is we’ve added a finance portion to that. So we have representatives that are able to talk about customers and their extended warranty policies and then also help them make the decision on whether they need to book a service appointment. The unintended consequence to it has been that we’ve been able to capture additional service business by offering a finance business development.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Ah, I see. I see the angle now. Okay. And it’s been effective.
Sarah Vantine: It’s been very effective. A lot of customers have said it’s been a lot easier to get information quickly and then we’re able to carry the process through to help them book a service appointment.
Jim Fitzpatrick: We’ve talked about some of the pluses on this. On the minus side, what are the most common challenges that you’ve encountered while building a solid service BDC strategy?
Sarah Vantine: Well, with any store it’s all about communication between departments and one of the biggest challenges in a business development center is making sure that all of the managing directors, the general manager, the parts manager [inaudible 00:02:33]. It’s about how a process should be done or how a process needs to be implemented.
Sarah Vantine: But if you can come together and look at it objectively and figure out ways that you can make the process better, if there’s a problem, that’s going to be tremendously beneficial to the organization too. But that’s definitely one of the biggest challenges. So just making sure that everybody is on the same page and that once you come up with a process that you stick to it.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Who manages the staff that’s in the BDC? A BDC manager? Is that how that works? Who do they report… They don’t report to the service manager, do they?
Sarah Vantine: No, they don’t. So they report directly to a BDC manager that is responsible for handling escalated customer situations. And speaking also, if there’s a problem and the service manager needs to speak to somebody about it, then the service manager would go to the BDC manager and then we would look into it from there. We definitely follow the chain of command as far as that goes
Jim Fitzpatrick: I assume there’s software out there that helps the staff and the BDC to answer these questions and to bring the customer along to an appointment or what have you, right?
Sarah Vantine: Yes. There is a lot of different software that we use. We use several different programs for our representative to have access to the necessary information they need to keep the customer informed.
Jim Fitzpatrick: In your opinion, what are the three keys to a successful service BDC strategy?
Sarah Vantine: Really, first I would say is make sure you have a clear focus in mind. With the BDC it’s very easy for that role to become a service receptionist. What I mean by that is it’s very easy for a department to become where the person just answers the phone, takes down a little bit of information, but they don’t have any authority to really help the customer or do anything other than just book a very simple appointment.
Sarah Vantine: What I would say the first thing that you would need to do is make sure that you are empowering the people that are answering the phones. The second thing that’s been so successful is giving them the resources and the tools to be able to help the customer effectively. What I mean by that is letting them have access to look up safety recalls, being informed about what those safety recalls are, giving them access to warranty information.
Sarah Vantine: All of that is necessary. So the rep has an understanding about all of the different things a customer could be calling in about. The third thing I would say is open and clear communication between departments. So it’s imperative that you are always in constant communication with the service parts managers, finance managers. Really everybody that’s involved in the day to day dealer operations.
Sarah Vantine: Because as you go along they’re going to be processes and things that need to be changed especially as customer expectations change and as manufacturer objections change or objectives change. Then we want to make sure that we stay with those programs and we can develop them and continue to grow.
Jim Fitzpatrick: If a dealership’s got a BDC in place already on the sales side, is it the same room? Is that the same manager? It could conceivably be the same staff that works those service calls or is your setup that you’ve got a separate staff for service versus the sales calls?
Sarah Vantine: So we keep it a separate staff for sales and service. The one thing that we do with our sales staff is we cross train them for service calls. With sales call, it is a much more objection handling focused type of call and ultimately you’re trying to get that person to set an appointment. With service, most of the time the person is calling in because they have a need.
Sarah Vantine: They already have something that they want, either they need pricing for the service, but the end result is that customers coming in. With sales, typically, that customer could go to a variety of different resources to get information that could be at various stages of a buying process. We have totally different staff that handle both of those outlets, so that way we can be very focused with where our training and development is.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. It sounds to me like a huge training initiatives got to be in place prior to this staff taking those calls and service. Right? I mean, there’s a lot of questions those people have got to have answers to. I would imagine. Obviously the tools that you’ve got, the software and such will help, but is the training pretty extensive?
Sarah Vantine: So we’re always doing ongoing training. One of the big things that we’ve developed with our programs is with the BDC managers specifically, we train them and then we also teach them how to train the rest of the staff. They have dedicated teams that they manage and so they’re responsible to train and help grow those particular individuals. We also do meetings weekly and we do performance meetings monthly one-on-one with every single rep. So they know exactly what areas of opportunity that they have and what they can do to continue to work on them.
Jim Fitzpatrick: And for a dealership that sells or writes between 1500 and 2000 ROS a month, how many people would make up a service BDC in a scenario like that?
Sarah Vantine: Well, so how we look at it is we look at the number of phone calls as far as with the RO count that we want to try to grow to. So initially, I mean, when we first started out, we were very light in staff. We started out with only four reps, but our intention was from that point, we first had incoming calls that we only took. Then as we continued to grow, we added outbound phone calls to that. So our current state, because we have three different stores and we’re doing inbound and outbound calls for all three. Right now, we have 17 reps with two BDC team leads over the whole department for service.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Obviously, housed in one area for all three stores.
Sarah Vantine: Yes, correct.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. So it’s not essential that the BDC is actually at the physical location of the specific store that taking calls for?
Sarah Vantine: Yes, and that’s a very common misconception. A lot of service managers and a lot of dealer principals think that BDC needs to be able to see your service drive. That’s simply not the case. It’s actually better for the person to be removed from that environment because then they’re not met with other distractions that do come up when the person is face to face with customers.
Sarah Vantine: What we’re able to do by being off of the drive and being separate is we’re able to focus specifically on the customers that are on our phones and make those outbound phone calls that drive business to our stores. We keep in touch downstairs to… We’re physically located at our Toyota store, but we have our two other stores of course at different locations.
Sarah Vantine: How we keep in touch with all of those different departments is through Messenger. So we use different messaging applications and group messaging. So we’re able to quickly communicate things to our porters, our service advisors, and also our shuttle drivers.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Even the shuttle drivers are dialed in on this, huh?
Sarah Vantine: Yes, they’re. We have-
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s pretty impressive. What is the relationship look like between the service personnel and the BDC personnel?
Sarah Vantine: So we really work hand in hand, and the service advisors have seen how much of a benefit this department has been for them. Because we’re that second piece of communication, so let’s say a service advisor has been trying to call a customer to give them an update on their car to get authorization. Well, if the person calls into us, we’re able to quickly ascertain what the nature of the call is and we’re able to see that there’s an open repair order about it. So we’re able to quickly get the customer that they’ve been waiting for that call back on.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.
Sarah Vantine: There’s a lot of seamless communication that happens through a variety of different channels, but ultimately the service advisors have really benefited tremendously from having a business development center.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sarah Vantine, BDC director at Scott Clark Automotive Group. Thank you so much for joining us on CBT. We always get a lot out of your visits here, and I know that for the dealers that are watching and the GMs and the fixed ops managers, this was good stuff today. So thanks so much for joining us.
Sarah Vantine: Thank you.
CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media Production.