Finding the Customer Who Doesn’t Want To Be Found

February 2012, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Gene Daughtry - Also by this author

I know it’s hard to believe that people actually change their lives dramatically and try to hide from their creditors. I have been amazed over the last 20-plus years by the number of people who believe they were the first person to have the idea to hide from creditors and that it might actually work.

Best Ride is located in west central Arkansas. We have repossessed vehicles over the years in California, Washington, New York, Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. Finding vehicles out of state is as easy as finding them here in town.

The keys to finding that skip are underwriting and having an organized collector. In our operation, the work of the salesperson actually helps determine the success of finding a wayward customer later. When the salesperson puts together a deal, they understand that obtaining collection of information will never be easier than at the point of doing the original application. The salespeople understand that they will not get a deal done unless we have all the details and the information is verified. Current address, previous addresses, jobs and vehicles, along with a good reference sheet, are critical for finding your customer later.

In most cases, by the time a customer has left town, we have already begun more aggressive collections processes like contacting relatives, visiting the known residence, talking to neighbors and re-verifying job information. In some cases mom, dad or grandma will give much of the needed information to a good collector. If they won’t give us information, they will at least contact the customer to tell them we are looking for them. Any of these actions can get us a phone call from our customer to straighten out the problem.

Many times if customers cannot pay or don’t think we will find them, they won’t respond. We get pieces of information from different contacts and use these hints like a detective would, matching new information with the original information we have. Most people go back to a previous location or a family home. Accurint (a service of data provider LexisNexis) is a great way to discover new information, track different relatives and get phone numbers. Facebook is another very important tool these days with so many people eager to share their lives with their friends on the Web. Pulling a new bureau can give you information like rent-to-own or payday loan facilities in a new city. Sometimes an acquaintance or ex will finally give us the information we need because they are also owed money or have an issue with the customer and would like to cause them trouble.

The key is being patient and working through the leads when you receive them. If we aren’t getting anywhere, we will leave our skips alone for several weeks to allow for new information to surface. By then, our customer will feel comfortably safe in their new location. When we get a new lead, we pick up the deal again and it generally only takes a few minutes to isolate where they are. Once we have determined a location, we contact a local BHPH dealer in that area and use their repo man. That generally gets us the vehicle in two or three days since the local agent already knows the area.

I have been handling skips in this manner for 20 years. We do not use devices. It does take a little effort to find some of the customers. We generally have to look for fewer than 10 skips in a given year, and Best Ride has not lost a single vehicle out of our seven-year-old portfolio with 700 open loans. Make your sales process a major part of the collections process to help your collectors succeed.


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