tompkins paula

ChannelNet is planning a global roll-out of its Software-as-a-Service digital platform following its landmark strategic partnership with White Clarke Group.

ChannelNet has pioneered the use of digital marketing tools to support customer acquisition and retention, through mobile and web-based solutions.

Founded more than 30 years ago, the digital marketing specialist brands itself as a digital pioneer, as it has been at the forefront of automating and digitising customer communication for decades.

It created the first digital marketing campaigns in the world for BMW, General Motors and Ford in 1986.

In 1995, the company developed Ford.com, FordCredit.com and the world's first websites for Ford's thousands of dealers in the US, Mexico and Canada.

Since then, it has responded to customer expectations of a seamless omnichannel buying and retention experience by developing a marketing automation platform that shares data across touch points including email, smartphone, website, call centre, tablets, dealerships and traditional direct mail.

Last year, its SaaS platform supported more than 42 million user interactions and prompted 313,000 lease end intent submissions and 342,000 pre-approved credit applications.

To avoid companies having to invest in expensive in-house IT upgrades to meet the increasing need for personalised customer communications on multiple devices, the company has its SaaS platform ChannelNet SiteBuilder, which offers cloud-based services that can be rolled out in 30 – 90 days for even the largest auto lenders.

Its SaaS platform is used by a range of companies, including automotive and financial services brands Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, Ally, Harley Davidson and Hyundai Capital in America and Canada.

Over the past few years, the company has increasingly been called on to help in the finance sector, mainly loan and lease, to help enhance communication between finance companies, local sales channels, call centres and end-user customers.

This requires ChannelNet to access back-office systems of auto finance lenders and their suppliers.

The new strategic partnership will enable White Clarke Group to offer its client base access to ChannelNet’s SaaS platform, extending its current range of products that includes Calms, the end-to-end auto and asset finance software system.

In a key part of the deal, White Clarke Group will offer their lending customers the platform, which includes a branded customer self-service account management portal, so customers can manage their loans and leases.

Additional features include online credit applications, so customers are approved before visiting the showroom; secure dealer portals with wholesale system information for lenders; and customer lifecycle management systems designed to share relevant information on the ownership experience with the lender and dealer customers.

This strategic partnership recognises the potential benefits of the two companies working more closely together, according to Paula Tompkins, chief executive officer of ChannelNet.

She said: “It was quite natural to develop a direct relationship, as we already have established system connections and can leverage them easily. It presents a huge advantage in terms of speed to market and an end-to-end solution for lenders and dealers.

“We can both introduce our clients to what the other has to offer and review our different services with new customers and existing customers.”

A key benefit for ChannelNet is the potential to expand its customer base more widely outside the US to reflect WCG’s global footprint. In turn, WCG gains greater visibility in the US, where it is expanding.

Tompkins added: “This partnership will help us to make mutual gains and meet the needs of the lenders. We are working with WCG in the top five EU markets and other advanced markets, such as Holland and Belgium, Brazil and APAC, so we expect an expansion in personnel.

“We have a patented SaaS platform and that give us tremendous speed to market. We don’t have to start from scratch every time and that allows us to leverage the knowledge of our team of experts that includes strategy, creative, content, analytics and a dealer concierge help desk.”

The company’s services include a dealer portal, which is a B2B solution for banks and captives, delivering information related to doing business with the captive including details of customers coming to the end of their lease, retail credit approvals and incentive information.

Its loan origination product is attracting a lot of interest, according to Tompkins.

She said: “There is real interest in changing from the dealer filling in the application to allowing customers to do it themselves online. We provide the lead information to the dealer to offer a streamlined point of sale experience. Customers that apply online are at the point of making a purchase. There is no stronger buying signal than a completed and approved credit application.”

An increasing level of personalisation provides benefits when it comes to encouraging renewals and long-term loyalty to drive repurchase, according to Tompkins.

She added: “Because of personalisation, we have reached the point where we know if the customer has reached the optimal point of equity of their current vehicle and we can notify the dealer that the customer could be ‘in play’.

“In the past, the loans were allowed to roll off. We want to be proactive and use the information to stimulate additional sales and in other ways too, such as asking the customer for a referral from a friend or relative.

“In the past, companies may have looked at their loan books and focused on getting the next new customer, rather than looking at the existing relationship and reselling, but it is eight to nine times more expensive to find a new client than it is to renew.”

She adds that the best new sales leads for dealers come from the financial services sector, because a lease customer must do something with the vehicle and hopefully look for a new model from the same manufacturer.

Tompkins said: “How do we make it easier for them to do business with the lender, manufacturer and their dealer?”

ChannelNet also offers products that enables customers to take advantage of close customer communication.

This includes a product that allows drivers to take photos of any vehicle damage through a mobile app before they return their vehicle. This is sent to the dealer, who can then provide an accurate value on the returned model, including any potential recharges.

Tompkins said: “Wear and tear can be a friction point that makes the customer angry, so getting ahead means you are able to deal with things before the customer comes in. We use a lot of tools to avoid surprises at the point of sale.”

Case study - Mercedes-Benz Financial Services

Mercedes-Benz Financial Services wanted a digital solution to welcome new customers into their relationship with the finance company and provide ongoing relevant tools and communications to provide a positive experience.

ChannelNet worked with Mercedes to implement a digital welcome touchpoint to introduce and onboard new customers into their relationship with MBFS.

Elements include encouraging customers to pay their bills online in order to improve their overall customer experience, as well suggesting they paperless, which reduces paper costs associated with mailing traditional welcome packs.

ChannelNet launched the initial solution in 83 days from start to finish. Once the US service was launched, MBFS Canada joined the platform.

The platform is also being developed further with a digital end of contract loyalty and retention program for customers.