When a would-be customer says “no,” does it sometimes mean “yes.”
Well, yes and no.
“‘No’ doesn't necessarily mean ‘no.’ Often it means, ‘Not now,’” says Brent D. Burns, president of CenterOne Financial Services, a World Omni Financial Corp. division that services dealers and their customers with third-party loans and leasing.
You don't know when someone is set to say “yes” unless you keep in touch with them. Doing that in an automated way is part of a new joint customer relationship management (CRM) venture between CenterOne and Cowboy Corp., using the latter's flagship software product, Prospector.
“We believe it's the best software of its kind,” says CenterOne Group Vice President Frank Armstrong. “We were looking for a CRM leader with strong technology.”
He says more and more of CenterOne's dealer clients were looking for what are called “fulfillment solutions” in the business “but we didn't have the software.”
Cowboy did, thus the partnership with CenterOne. Cowboy's integrated services include targeted direct mail and telemarketing campaigns and owner-base “in market” modeling that predicts when a consumer might enter the vehicle market based on past individual buying trends.
The key is “relentless consistency,” says Armstrong. “If we set up a campaign where a dealer wants a customer touched, say with a birthday card or greeting, it will happen every time.”
Much of the goal is to foster customer loyalty, or at least get people thinking about the dealership through frequent phone and email contacts cued by the Prospector software.
It's an effort to go beyond which dealership has the best deal, says Armstrong.
Adds Burns, “We're trying to change from a transactional relationship to one based on loyalty, so the customer is thinking about that dealership. You can plant a seed.”
A test program using select dealers has proven encouraging. Of 500 calls, 35% resulted in sales.
Predicting when his existing customers will reenter the market is “extraordinary,” says Ralph Avila, president of Ford of Pompano (FL). “We have succeeded in increasing sales, improving lease retention, increasing CSI and most importantly improving our bottom line.”
It makes sense for dealerships to turn to often ignored existing customer data bases, says Ruby Osten, CEO of Cowboy Corp., which The Cobalt Group just purchased.
“The cost of retaining a customer is $180,” he says. “The cost of getting a new one can run as high as $1,000 or more. This is retaining the customer. Some dealerships have owner bases as large as 15,000 people who've never been touched this way.”
Seven hundred CenterOne telemarketers using the Prospector software, are based in Mobile, AL and St. Louis, MO.
They work from a script that allows some latitude. “They're adept at professionally overcoming objections,” says Burns.
But they know where to draw the line, says Armstrong. “You want to establish loyalty with the dealership. If you have that, you're not going to grind the customer to the last penny.”