Dealers will have more to think about than how they'll drive sales traffic over the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
That's because on Sept. 1 a new collection of Federal Trade Commission rules are to kick in. As amendments to the current “Do-Not-Call” telemarketing sales rules, they will affect how dealers conduct customer communications.
The regulations carry significant benefits for consumers, and are truly great news for dealers.
Dealers should set in place the processes to ensure they'll be ready for these changes.
Most importantly, dealers should be reviewing how they are communicating with customers and prospects to make certain they have the ideal strategy in place.
Doing so will ensure that all mission-critical outreach and retention campaigns align squarely with the new legislation.
Instead of another compliance headache, dealers will find the new rules to be a significant opportunity to refocus on the best, most effective, long-term relationship-building communications.
Gone are the days of communicating only when dealers want the consumer to buy something.
Today's consumer demands timely, relevant and professional communications through the media of their choice. Dealers who meet that demand will be rewarded with increased service retention, customer satisfaction, repeat business and referral purchases.
Understanding the new FTC regulations is the first step, so let's take a look at what the rules are designed to do.
They address the growing use of pre-recorded, solicitous telemarketing messages. Solicitous comes into play if you've ever received a message such as a cable company enticing you to switch providers, yet you are perfectly happy with your current service.
These rules will give consumers greater control by eliminating uninvited communications like these. The new regulations will require written consent for pre-recorded telemarketing calls of a purely solicitous nature, and mandate that businesses provide an opt-out option at the beginning of each such call.
Some communications are excluded from these new rules, allowing consumers to continue to receive and benefit from messages that provide timely, relevant information about the customer's ownership experience.
Those include recall notifications, surveys, customer-care bulletins, appointment reminders, or anything that qualifies as a meaningfully informational customer message.
The FTC laws can jumpstart more powerful customer communications.
Imagine the clutter that would be eliminated from our mailboxes if solicitation via mail were eliminated. Imagine the clutter that would be eliminated from our inboxes if Can-Spam legislation were more strictly enforced. This is no different.
The new FTC laws, regulating solicitous telemarketing communications, shine a bright spotlight on the importance of smart customer communications in general.
Starting next month, timely relevant, professional communications will reach into households newly free from the clutter of unwanted solicitation messages. That clears the way for dealer messaging that is designed to inform consumers and enhance their overall ownership experience.
Now is the time for dealers to stop thinking about their database solely as a resource for that annual super sale. Creating an overall multi-channel, preference-based communication plan that includes text, e-mail and voice messaging at key touchpoints in the customer life will reward dealers with greater loyalty and more business.
The FTC laws prod thinking beyond the short-term sales-blitz telemarketing approach.
Advances in voice messaging technology and communication tools, such as mobile devices and email, put a relevant communications platform at the fingertips of every dealership.
An ideal, compliant communication strategy that includes the right message at the right time via the right channel can be fully automated.
Additionally, the new FTC rules underscore the importance of collecting customer-communications preferences. This collection is a centerpiece of compliance. It's fundamental to customer relations and boosting customer response. New technology provides new opportunities to achieve this.
PURLs (Personal Web Pages) are a fantastic way for dealerships to empower their customers to manage their communication preferences. But whatever technology or process dealers adopt to handle it, the FTC laws encourage a smarter, more effective process.
All marketing should be sent in the customer's preferred format and all communications should be designed to generate loyalty, convey appreciation and guarantee customer satisfaction. The idea is to build relationships, not to solicit.
Our experience at One Command in sending millions of communications across multiple channels over the past six years has taught us that nothing destroys a potential or existing customer relationship faster than an unwanted solicitation or an irrelevant message in an inappropriate format.
These new rules are great for compliant marketers because the overwhelming and negative clutter of solicitous telemarketing undermines meaningful efforts at building relationships with your customers.
So, with the new FTC rules encouraging a whole new breed of meaningful communications that will better build more long-term, powerful customer relations, dealers should view compliance as less a headache, than a communications makeover opportunity.
The best advice to ensure full compliance is to work with a certified compliant vendor. But for dealers who want to do the heavy lifting on their own, key facts on the upcoming FTC regulations are contained in the sidebar FAQ box on the right.
Meanwhile, to get a full set of guidelines and recommended best practices, download the “Dealership Guide to FTC Compliance” at www.onecommand.com/ftc/compliance.php.
For more detailed information on the new regulations, visit the FTC site at www.ftc.gov.
Al Babbington is CEO of OneCommand, a leading provider of integrated and automated, personalized communication solutions and services for the automotive industry.