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What Does BDC Mean in the Automotive Industry?

Automotive Industry
BCP Editorial

BCP Editorial

18 Aug, 2023
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The automotive industry is on the upswing. The shift to online comparing and buying is nearly complete, and dealerships are quickly adapting to this new digital reality. The supply chain issues and shortages that caused skyrocketing prices and inventory shortages are resolving, and sales are rising again. With similar buying channels, prices and products, dealerships are now looking to differentiate themselves in a new way: through customer service and business development.

Traditionally, dealerships relied on their sales teams for these services. That worked in the days of phone books and walk-ins, but today, customers contact the dealership at all hours via many different channels. In fact, 45% of leads come in after hours with nobody to answer the queries. That’s where the BDC comes in. But what does BDC mean in an auto dealership context? And do you need one?

What Does BDC Stand For in Car Sales?

At a car dealership, BDC stands for “business development center.” The BDC can either be in-house at the dealership or can be remote. With advances in technology and the digitalization of the industry, outsourced automotive BDC is becoming more popular as dealerships can answer calls 24/7 and increase efficiencies.

The BDC supports the sales department, but they’re not the same thing. Salespeople are on the dealership floor, helping customers and finalizing deals. BDC agents are in the back office, taking care of the legwork. BDCs are also not the same thing as customer service centers, although their capabilities might overlap. While customer service centers focus solely on complaints and support, BDCs take care of that, plus a lot more.

What is Business Development for Dealerships?

Before we can understand the meaning of a BDC, let’s take a step back. Business development is an essential part of any dealership’s growth strategy. It encompasses not only the sales process, but the entire customer lifecycle. By providing excellent service, a dealership can get existing customers back in the door and earn referrals, expanding their base.

Business development centers for car dealerships might leverage any of the following:

  • Outbound calling and prospecting
  • Service and recall reminders
  • Appointment reminders and follow-ups
  • Personalized emails, such as for a birthday or holiday
  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Customer referral programs

How service influences business development

Great service during every single customer interaction with the dealership leads to a better experience. Satisfied customers become repeat customers, write glowing reviews, improve your brand reputation, and refer their friends and family to your business.

In addition, a service BDC department at a dealership may help sales in other ways. For example, if a car’s repairs are going to cost more than a new vehicle, the BDC can pass that information on to sales – as it’s likely the customer is going to need to make a purchase soon.

What Does a BDC Do?

So what does BDC mean in the day-to-day sense? Modern BDCs go above and beyond what an automotive call center does. Whether on-site or off, they’re staffed by BDC agents who take care of a variety of tasks, including both sales and service.

A sales BDC might:

  • Set appointments and send reminders for sales consultations and test drives.
  • Engage with customers via phone calls, text, chat or email to ensure their questions are answered.
  • Manage and generate leads across all channels. BDC agents look at leads coming in from the website, display ads, social media, and other marketing campaigns, prioritize them, and contact them. 
  • Nurture and follow-up on leads by contacting the potential or existing customers with more information, discounts, and reminders.
  • Analyze data like engagement, lead conversion rates, and sales trends, then give a report to the dealership. This allows managers to make data-driven decisions and improve business results.

A service BDC, on the other hand, is focused on the customer after the sale is made. They might:

  • Field calls from customers who need maintenance or repairs.
  • Reach out to past customers to remind them about maintenance needs.
  • Schedule appointments, provide reminders, and follow-up with no-shows.
  • Arrange for rental vehicles and tows.
  • Distribute surveys about the customer experience.

Benefits of a BDC for Auto Sales

BDCs can do a lot for your dealership by lightening the load on your salespeople. Done right, they have a lot of benefits.

Answer more calls

Modern customers do their shopping online at all hours of the day and night. In fact, 60% of customers plan to make their next vehicle purchase entirely online. BDCs provide a customer service element that most dealerships can’t provide on their own: 24/7 responses to leads. When a customer can inquire about a car at midnight and get an immediate response, they’re more likely to make an appointment than if they have to wait until the next day.

Communicate effectively

A good BDC will deliver accurate communications to your customers. Agents are trained on phone etiquette, and their focus is on building the customer relationship, not making the “hard sell.” They can let the customer know if the car they want is still available, provide alternatives, share offers and discounts, and answer questions. And they can do it in a way that’s effective, because it’s customized to each person, yet consistent.

Organize your sales process

When the sales department handles customer service “from the cradle to the grave,” it can put too much on their plates. Salespeople are talented, but they’re not magical: It’s easy to miss a lead, forget a follow-up, or mix up pricing. With a BDC, the team doesn’t have to sort through all the leads themselves. Technology with a human touch can sort, prioritize, and assign leads more efficiently, helping your sales team stay organized.

Convert more leads

Before the internet, a car dealer might have taken out a newspaper ad or run some local commercials, then waited for customers to come in. Not anymore. The way customers buy is changing, and the way dealerships sell needs to change along with it. BDCs take a proactive approach to nurturing leads, communicating with customers at all stages of the sales funnel, and converting them into appointments and sales.

Make happier customers

Ultimately, the real meaning of an automotive BDCis this: It’s a service that can make your customers happier. Today’s customers have dealership reviews at their fingertips. They can compare prices instantly online, which may make them less likely to want to negotiate. A car is a big investment for most people, and they want to know they’ll be taken care of. BDCs help you do that.

Common Misconceptions About Outsourced BDCs

There are plenty of benefits to outsourced BDCs. But when you search for “What does BDC mean?,” you’re bound to come across some misconceptions, too.

They’re not professional

A BDC at a car dealership focuses on solving customer problems by listening and taking a consultative approach. That means they need to have excellent phone skills and knowledge of the industry. Some automotive call centers use voice assistants and off-shore agents with a high turnover rate, which makes their quality suffer. But when a BDC ensures its agents are properly trained and have industry expertise, customers get a knowledgeable, professional experience, every time.

They’re expensive

In-house BDC departments at dealerships do require a big investment. You’ll need space, equipment, and software, plus the most expensive part: staff. But a virtual or remote BDC removes this overhead, so your startup costs should actually be lower. Plus, a remote BDC can flex with your demand, so when it’s slower, you can scale down, and when business picks up, you can add more capacity so you don’t stress out your sales team.

They won’t integrate with your tech stack

Many BDCs have proprietary technology or preferred programs they use for call monitoring, but this leads to the misconception that they can’t integrate with your tech stack. This simply isn’t true: A good BDC can integrate with your CRM and OSS. Better Car People integrates with more than 40 CRMs and we offer millions of unique templates, so every response is personalized, tracked and recorded.

You’ll have to give up control

Nearly any third-party service comes with the risk that you’ll have less control than you would with an in-house team. The best BDCs do everything they can to keep the ball in your court. Better Car People lets you fully personalize your responses, listen to every call, and read every text or email. We don’t take away control of your leads, either. We only respond when you can’t, and you can use our service as much or as little as you’d like.

Do You Need a BDC?

Many car dealerships aren’t yet using a BDC and miss out on potential customers simply because they don’t have the staff or resources to develop all their sales leads. If this is you, it’s worth investigating the benefits of BDCs. Book a meeting with us today for an evaluation. Because at the end of the day, what does BDC mean? It means improved response times, better customer relationships, and a competitive advantage.