Best Practices

Does Your BDC Have a Safe Word?

For those of you who have had little to no fun in their lives, a “safe word” is a predetermined word that can be said to signal your desire to end an activity. It is to be spoken if any situation gets out of hand. You consent to the activity and create a safe word if anything begins going farther than you’d like it to go. (My safe word, for instance, is “harder”.)

With that said, today’s shoppers are challenging BDC agents during conversations where it’s obvious the BDC agent just wants to submit (or scream STOP)! Hanging up the phone, or shouting “no!” to a client, though, doesn’t bode well for setting appointments, let alone developing long-term relationships. So we advise dealers without BDC agents experienced in the ways of painful or tortuous customer calls/emails to create a safe word. Essentially, a word, words, or phrases, when spoken by the shopper, that instructs them to pivot the conversation and take them to another channel (or person).

This is about control.

In today’s transparent retail shopping experience where most dealers understand the importance of sharing discounted pricing online, we are relinquishing much control to the shopper. When they call us, we are often at their mercy, as they’re loaded with information to whip our salespeople into submission. Some callers will look to extract so much information, your team will be pushed to the brink or simply dominated. It is at that point when a safe word is mentioned where you must trigger your team to take a course of action, and place them into a conversation with a sales manager prepared for the rough-and-tumble game the client hopes to play.

In retail, I was fortunate to have hired and trained Internet Sales Managers and BDC agents capable of discussing price, calculating finance and lease payments, and even stepping away from the cubicle to close a deal face to face. Every BDC agent is capable of this level of hands-on selling if trained properly. However, many owners, managers, and the like don’t want their BDC agents and ISMs handling such price-specific conversations. They simply haven’t been trained to the extent to deliver a competent or authoritative response that would win a shopper’s business. Therefore, a sales manager is needed, one who has weathered the online shopping storm and lived to tell the tale.

If you have new-ish BDC agents, or are looking to excise the price/payment/trade value topics from your Internet teams, consider assigning some “shopping safe words”. For instance, when a customer asks…

“what is the out the door price?”
“what are my lease payments for 36 months with 12k miles a year?”
“what’s the best rate I can get?” or
“how much will you give me for my trade?”

…your team needs to be taught to transition the customer offline, or to a sales manager with the capabilities of answering those questions immediately. Shoppers, relishing control, expect and deserve an answer, so make sure someone at your store is at least willing and able to answer them.

CAUTION: If you don’t allow your BDC agents to discuss price/payment/trade/etc, DO NOT let them then become the middle man between sales manager and customer when it comes to the dissemination of information. If you don’t trust them to calculate the answers, don’t force them to be the sole messenger of info either. Provided your agents properly transition them to a sales manager, or obtain contact information with clients’ wants and desires, do not make them relay the information back to the shopper. Instead, require your Sales Managers to get involved personally in the conversation with the customer.  You put them in the hot seat, after all.

Too many BDC agents are prevented from discussing topics, yet are asked to be the messenger of the information they aren’t privy to obtaining themselves. It makes no sense. If a manager has been promoted due to their ability to sell vehicles, solve client questions, and make deals, they shouldn’t make others without that level of experience deliver the goods.

So… define what safe words a shopper may speak that would require the transition away from a BDC agent and into the hands of a Sales Manager. Train your team to be ready for anything. What trigger words should signal the ISMs to wind down the call and get them into the hands of someone with the authority to answer? Put some safe word processes in place and less people will be hurt by letting things go on too long.

Automotive trainer and consultant. I'm also a writer, speaker, movie buff, and Dad. --President of DealerKnows--