Hello Customer Care Centers, goodbye Service BDCs!

Time has come for OEMs and dealerships to move beyond a mere Service BDC and into a more unified digital multi-channel customer care center. According to a recent retail automotive study 73% of customers prefer a digital form of communication such as website, email, SMS, and social media during their vehicle ownership life-cycle. That is a vast majority of customers hinting to dealerships and OEMs alike that if you want our continued business meet us at our preferred communication channel. That's where we are!

The automotive new world order will be every bit about customer preferences as it will be about a dealership’s ability to cater to those preferences and in the process operate a productive and a profitable enterprise. In today’s dealership based service centers, customer interactions are primarily voice only, whether outbound or inbound. This method of communication has served the dealership well however has come with its own set of challenges.

Consider this fact: “About two out of every three callers reaching your dealership will ask to speak with someone in Service or Parts. Unfortunately, 20 percent of these callers will never reach the department or agent they need to assist them with their needs.” (Best Practices in Fixed Ops — Implementing Call Monitoring: Peter Falkowski). The amount of phone call activity generated through dealership service departments can be mind boggling at times and not all calls are directly related to a service visit for maintenance or repair. Many customers will simply call to ask a technical or a feature related question. Many customers will call to ask for pricing and many will simply call to check up on their in-service vehicle status. Lack of categorization and improper handling of these calls are a direct reflection upon a brand and a failure in this department can have far reaching consequences to the long term health of a dealership.

With increased product quality gains across all OEMs and similar types of in-car feature availability across many models and makes, customer experience has become the key brand differentiator, hence the key to success. Customer experience is not a monolithic concept but an aggregate of many highly specialized interactions for each situation and specific to each customer. Are today’s dealerships equipped to handle these specialized customer interactions? Does today’s dealership have the appropriate tools and resources to manage the ever so increasing service call volumes that may not always be about a service visit?

Customer retention is no longer only about taking phone calls and appointment scheduling away from service advisors and putting it into the hand of a dedicated Service BDC team. Customer retention is also no longer just about providing coffee and pop corns to waiters or aggressively reaching out to car owners for due service notifications. Customer retention is about creating a culture and a process where every one of your customer relies on your dealership to answer any automotive related question and dare not think of going to a second source. Customer retention is about employing such technologies for your contact center that your customers can engage your BDC agents via their own preferred channels from anywhere in the world and for whatever their needs may be. Customer retention is about deploying information management systems that are truly collaborative and encourage the entire dealership staff to contribute with answers and content that are digitally shareable with customers across devices.

Imagine a customer engaging your Service BDC agents via your Facebook page to book an appointment because they just saw an oil change special appear in their newsfeed and they want to avail it right away. Imagine customers clicking on a link inside their service notification email to immediately chat with your Service BDC and schedule an appointment. Imagine customers using email, posts on social media and engaging your Service BDC via chat to ask questions about new car features. Now imagine if there was a one single system that could enable your Service BDC to orderly do all that plus the ability to take inbound calls as well as make outbound campaign calls, thus exponentially increasing agent productivity and ROI. You don't have to imagine, there is one.

Your Service BDC can no longer afford to be one dimensional in today’s multichannel universe. Voice calls whether inbound or outbound cannot be the only solution moving into the future. Voice only allows for a single stream of conversation at a time between a customer and a Service BDC agent. This ties up a resource pool that is finite. If and when incoming customer calls arrive in waves as they tend to do for service, then the call abandon rate goes through the roof and a dealership ends up with at best an irate and at worse a lost customer.

If a Service BDC is to be the nerve center of your customer retention efforts, then you have no choice but to digitize the customer experience. The biggest benefit of conditioning your customers to engage your service department via digital channels (which by the way is what they prefer) is the ability of your agent to interact with multiple customer requests at the same time. This efficiency gain will drastically reduce your cost per call and increase your agent productivity substantially. All this leads to a happy customer and a happy customer leads to increased and guaranteed revenue well into the future. Look at it as an insurance policy for sustained success in economic down times.

With increased usage of smart-phone devices and the proliferation of the internet, traditional communication methods are being abandoned for new ones. Customers are increasingly turning to digital resources to ask service related questions. They are increasingly posting these questions and concerns on social media, on forums and other sites. If someone is missing from this conversation, it is the dealership staff.

Although most dealerships will employ some sort of a reputation management solution, it is often too late to salvage a relationship if a customer has to vent out in public about their dissatisfaction with your dealership or staff. Reputation management companies are often not empowered enough to immediately solve customer complaints and are put in place to attack the symptom with a band aid not cure the actual disease. If an auto dealership turns their Service BDC into a fully fledged multichannel customer care center, which is ready to assist all customers in real-time then perhaps there won’t be a need for customers to write bad reviews on public sites in the first place. However transitioning to this promise land will require a complete mindset change, technology; well that is the easy part.

So Behold! The best customer retention strategy for the automotive new world order is about engaging customers on their own preferred communication channels and being present and ready to assist with all of their vehicle ownership needs. Hello Customer Care Centers, goodbye Service BDCs!

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