Rebekah Johnson: Welcome to Tuesday Talks, a live discussion series where we bring truth and shed light across the branded identity and the communications industry. I'm Rebekah Johnson, Founder and CEO of Numeracle, and I'll be cohosting today's session with Scott Davis, President of Dealer Identity and Volie. It's so great to have you joining us today, Scott.
Scott Davis: Thanks, Rebekah, it's great to be here. I'm very excited to have this discussion with you and everyone today. Thank you.
Rebekah Johnson: Scott, for listeners of ours who are unfamiliar with Dealer Identity, can you take a moment to share a bit about your experience in the automotive industry and creating the number one Business Development Center platform through your company, Volie? This then led to the creation of Dealer Identity, which is also Numeracle's exclusive automotive partner for identity verification and number reputation management for auto dealers.
Scott Davis: I've been in the auto business for about 20 years, but technology really hasn't changed that much in the automotive space for how they communicate with customers. Volie meant to solve that so we built modern call center technology on top of customer data management. With everything that's going on with spam labeling, STIR/SHAKEN, and all the new regulations, we realized we had a problem to solve. Dealers are not spamming their customers. Generally, the calls they make are about oil changes, warranties, recalls, and lease portfolio calls. Someone else submits a lead and they'll call them for that. They were struggling not only in our platform but outside of it to solve that so their calls got through to their customers. My son Jacob had a warranty call that was labeled as spam. You want to receive those legitimate calls we knew we had to solve hence, Dealer Identity and our partnership with Numeracle.
Rebekah Johnson: Thanks, Scott. Now that we know a little bit more about the solutions that you pioneered in this space, let's dive in and call out the elephant in the room. We're going to put a spotlight on some of the recent federal enforcements and attention that the automotive industry has been receiving, whether they want to receive it or not.
As we've been seeing in the news, the FCC and FTC have been extremely active and vocal around their continued efforts to identify and make public examples out of known bad actors. Just as recently as July 21, the Enforcement Bureau ordered all US voice service providers to take all necessary steps to avoid carrying robocall traffic from the Cox/Jones/Sumco Panama operation which was identified as originating scam warranty calls.
This by no means will be the last time that we hear of this type of case. Scott, with the FCC's Robocall Response Team led by Chairman Rosenworcel focusing new attention on the automotive industry, in addition to the gradual lack of trust overall that we've seen growing in your industry for years, how are all the legitimate auto dealers handling the struggle to connect to their customers and distinguishing themselves from these truly fraudulent scam calls?
Scott Davis: Up until now, they're just really struggling and, really, I don't blame the government for trying to solve this for the consumers, they're out to protect them. Unfortunately, it just affects these small businessmen and a lot of these community businessmen trying to communicate with their customers. Normal things they do nowadays are swapping out numbers or getting frustrated. They're having a hard time solving this in general.
Rebekah Johnson: I know that you've had to create policies to vet and verify the legitimacy of a dealership prior to enabling them access to your platforms because you're going to be delivering the calls. Have you come into any pushback from organizations not wanting to comply? Or have you found something similar to what we experienced in the past where legal companies are really perfectly fine with saying who they are, this is what they're communicating, and identifying themselves and their association with their numbers? What has been your experience in that space?
Scott Davis: Volie works directly and then indirectly with thousands of dealers each month and I've never run into a single bit of pushback for wanting to comply with this or attest that they have legitimate calls. Now, auto warranties have their place. Generally, dealerships are not making those calls and they are making simple calls that the customer wants. I've never received any pushback for it at all.
Rebekah Johnson: It's important for listeners to hear because I think there is a misunderstanding that it is the dealerships that are delivering the warranty calls and that are wrapped up with the label of being a scam. The debt collection industry had the same issue early on for distinguishing between bad actors posing to be debt collectors versus truly legal debt collectors. I mean, every industry has a collection arm to it. People will obtain services or products, don't pay their bills, and then it moves over into collections. But the collections industry as a whole was lumped all the way over into your bag just because of who you are. I'm curious to hear if you've seen that same type of activity in the auto industry where we've got these warranty scams and are they just getting lumped into it? Is that a pain point in the industry?
Scott Davis: Yeah, no question. It gives a lot of our customers stress because their customers will show up on a mailing list and they'll receive a call from someone like Dealer Services, and it sounds similar to what they're doing, and it's confusing for the customer. The customer doesn't love to receive those calls, and certainly, the dealers don't authorize them so they're excited to solve this too.
I think the two biggest problems that the dealers have are, number one, they have a hard time finding their simple entity information to get everything in place and they love paperwork. Number two, it's been a bit of education to get their arms around why they have to solve this problem because it's new for them so there's a learning curve. They're willing to do it, but they're often offended that they have to do it. They don't realize that they've tried many different ways, and they don't realize that no one's going to take care of this form.
Rebekah Johnson: That's a funny one, especially on the dealership side. When I buy a car, I have to sign so many papers and it takes hours for the transaction so filling out a few forms of paper to identify yourself shouldn't be that big of a challenge. But we hear this everywhere. Healthcare pushes back on gathering the necessary information to validate, and I honestly can't quite figure out why they're so offended by it, other than the fact that they hate even having to do this. I've had some customers simply tell me they're a big name and to go look at their website or go look at their stock ticket and I should know who they are. They're almost offended that you want to see some identification.
Scott Davis: I think it's our job to be good communicators and salespeople to help them realize we didn't create this problem. We're the problem solver here, and we've just gotten it; this stuff is all new. It is a hurdle to overcome on our side, but we don't blame them because it's brand new. It's funny, and you've talked to me a lot of times about this, Rebekah, but all these procedures and laws and regulations came out, and then the carriers are meant to solve them, and then it falls on these businesses to comply. It's hard to understand, and it's hard to know why. It's a new thing that you have to do.
Rebekah Johnson: Instead of just solving this for Volie customers, you really are a pioneer in this space. You quickly recognized that and you launched Dealer Identity, which is a very specific approach to it, and it's giving identities to dealerships. Can you speak to why you took that approach to stand up and be a leader in this industry?
Scott Davis: First off, we wanted to solve this problem for our customers. Secondly, these guys are the stereotype of a typical dealer where they're a slick business person who is out to make a ton of money. But really, most of these guys and gals are community-minded people, they're very generous, and they're not really that sophisticated in a lot of these ways that would help them communicate with their customers. We felt like it was a good value to bring to the industry that's been so good to us and so far, we're off to a good start.
Rebekah Johnson: I will say, being a pioneer in any industry means that you are having to pave a pathway that can be very challenging. I know one of the challenges, and I think it's worth taking a moment to talk about, is getting down to the identity of the entity behind the call. I'm going to take us back a few years with the FCC's Robocall Strike Force and the subsequent activities in the Standards Group where there was this concept in the beginning that an enterprise is just one entity and they have a direct relationship with its dialer and how could it ever be more complex than that?
The reality is, which is why I started Numeracle, various different industries are structured differently and the automotive industry, it's no different. There are some challenges with getting down to the identity behind the call. I think it'd be educational for you to share your understanding of how the automotive industry is structured because it's not just Dan's Ford on the corner and that's the only one. It could be one of many and there's layering and structure to it.
Scott Davis: It's very complex. It ranges from public companies like AutoNation and Lithia Motors that each having around 300 locations, from mom and pop stores in a little town and everything else in between. A lot of these stores are branded by location like Fort Myers Ford, or some of them have an individual brand name like the entity that you mentioned. There are many different ways that happens, and on top of that, there are other people making calls on behalf of these dealers.
Large dealers might have 500 phone numbers attached to them including their desk phone, their VoIP phones, click to call through their CRM, and then lots of calls that they are outsourcing because they can't get to them all internally. Those numbers through call centers also need this solution so it's very complex. There are many layers involved with it and it's been a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to quickly structure it so we can do a good job for them.
Rebekah Johnson: I appreciate you taking up that challenge and figuring it out for the industry because it's people like us that are going to have to solve that particular problem. What we're doing here is we're trying to make it very simple for the ones who are delivering calls. We need to verify their identities, associate that with their numbers, and make sure their calls aren't labeled as fraud and if they are labeled spam, they're made aware of it and can change dialing strategies. Sounds simple, but in execution, it is not that simple.
Scott Davis: Numeracle really makes it seem easy and the process is good. I will say, first of all, that Volie does not allow robot dialing or predictive dialing. Everything is automatically or manually initiated and we put business rules in place to manage the number of calling attempts. We've had a lot of success in our partnership with Numeracle.
After we get going, these numbers pretty much stay clean because of, not only how Volie helps manage it, but what they do in their own stores. These are not 50 attempts in a day type of people so it's working well. I would bet it's working better long term than other industries that have more aggressive calling tactics. Auto dealers just don't make a lot of the calls you'd expect, and for the most part, a lot of the ones that they do make, the customer really wants.
Rebekah Johnson: I know internally, one of our employees was having her car serviced, and it was in a tense time frame where she needed to get her car back soon otherwise she would have to get a rental car; it's life decisions that you have to make. Her call alerting her that her car was ready to be picked up was labeled as a spam call and that is so frustrating because sometimes life can depend on a call like this where you're trying to make plans, or you have kids to drive around meanwhile you're not answering the call from the dealership that the car is ready for pick up.
Scott Davis: Plus, think about all the touches that are involved in that call path. The dealership might have reached out via phone call to get that scheduled. Let's face it, the customers do not think about us as much as we think about them, and that includes servicing your car. A lot of times, you know that the best way to keep your car running forever is to keep the oil changes, keep the tires up to date, but you never remember to do it, so dealerships touch them to get the service appointment scheduled.
Nowadays, because of tech shortages and such, a lot of these dealerships are three weeks out when it comes to getting the customer in there so they quite often will schedule a follow-up or a reminder call to make sure they're there. They'll have to call them multiple times to give status updates on the vehicles and let them know it's ready or coordinate a rental car afterward. The manufacturers have strict rules on making sure the customer is happy. The customer doesn't always want to get that call, but for the most part, if you look at that whole chain and at how many touches that would be, it can easily be messed up by an incorrect spam label.
Rebekah Johnson: Absolutely. One of the ones early on in my career was with auto recalls. I forget the name of the exact case that it was under, but I learned really quickly about the complexity of verifying a number for the callers. When you have a situation in which there is some kind of civil action that's taken, the courts determine that this is a major issue. At all of these dealerships, let's say it's a buckle part, so Ford, Toyota, all of the dealerships are going to have to do recalls and they're going to do lookups by VIN numbers in batches. A company would be designated to deliver and manage the reach out of each of those individuals associated with those VIN numbers. They do the outbound call, but then when they made a connection with the consumer, they would do a redirect to the dealership, obviously the local dealership that they needed to drive the car into in order to have the part replaced.
That was the most complex process for carriers, and this was earlier on to figure out, and what I struggled with helping educate, that it's not Ford that's calling, but we definitely should probably present that it is Ford and that it's a Ford recall so that the consumer will respond to it as opposed to some name of a company nobody knows so they're not even going to answer and pick it up. In that structure, I still think we are lacking. I say "we" to mean the Federal Government on our legal side, the carriers, the industry, and the analytics as a whole who still all struggle to accept the fact that each industry, and even the entities within an industry, are structured differently and we should be accommodating that structure and not force it down one pathway. This is what I've seen happen time and time again. We truly want to solve this problem.
Scott Davis: The automotive industry wants to solve this too. In the case of your example, think about the average life of a car in operation. The average car probably has four or five owners. When you spoke about that process of enrolling customers in a campaign for a recall that customers really want to be done, they may have bought it at one dealer but maybe they moved to a different state. Data matching is hard nowadays over all this disparate data, let alone back when you were a kid in the 40s and 50s, so it's a hard process. I think you're right. All I know is automotive wants to solve this.
Rebekah Johnson: I'm thankful that you're there to help them through the process and I see it growing. I want to give you the opportunity to provide for all those legitimate companies in the automotive space that are looking to stay connected with their customers. Do you have some top three strategies or recommendations/best practices in order to stay far away from the Robocall Response Team's radar and obtain what we refer to as the highest levels of customer trust in communications?
Scott Davis: First of all, don't make phone calls that you don't want to receive yourself. The good thing is automotive dealers have a lot of calls that their customers want to receive and that their prospects want to receive so keep that in mind; would you want to receive that call? The second thing, is don't use things that may get you in trouble with the TCPA or impact the trust you have with the customer. A good example would be a ringless voicemail, which is definitely a TCPA violation. A lot of auto dealers and other businesses still use that and customers don't trust it, they know it's not real, and it's going to get you in trouble. It ruins the trust in what you're doing. Then third, it's not really hard to comply with the laws and regulations and back to never make a call you wouldn't want to receive. Don't use tactics that you wouldn't want to have either. That means don't call someone 25 times a day or five times a day for two weeks. Use tools that help you manage that, and there are plenty of them out there, like Volie, that allow you to communicate with customers systematically and respectfully, but not too much.
Rebekah Johnson: I'm glad you added that last point, especially because it isn't difficult to make the right decisions and know your customer. We talk about knowing your customer all the time in our space with regards to who the entity is that's delivering calls on their network, but you should absolutely know your customer with how they want to be communicated with and when they want to be communicated with. That applies to any industry; don't deliver a call that you wouldn't want to receive yourself. I think that's a brilliant line. That hits the nail on the head with why a lot of these companies find themselves having issues with spam labels. It's because you're calling customers in a way they don't want to be recalled, or the pattern, or how often, or even what the message is. That's really good advice, and I really hope that people heed that information. Scott, we'd like to thank you for being here today, and we'd like to thank all of you in the audience for joining us for another episode of Tuesday Talks.
We will see you again on Tuesday, August 16, where we will be joined by our very own Molly Weis, VP of Marketing and Communications, and Alex Carter, VP of Business Development for a market assessment of contact center solutions and trends. We hope to see you there!