When Ally Financial was a captive lender for General Motors, the company didn’t have much interaction with borrowers during the course of their car loans and vehicle ownership.

“We tended to only talk to customers when we put them on and off the books,” says Andrea Riley, Ally’s chief marketing officer. “If we talked to them in between, it typically wasn’t a good conversation, because it usually was about a delinquency.”

That’s changed, especially because Ally is now a non-captive lender and competing for business accordingly.

“We felt it was important to establish a relationship with people on a more regular basis,” says Riley, explaining the reasoning behind what’s called the Ally Customer Touchpoint Experience. “As an independent in the marketplace, that’s important for us to do.”

The program is an automated set of marketing tools, including digital versions, intended to connect with customers throughout the full cycle of their lease contract or auto loan. Ally has designed it so that dealers can join in with their marketing messages.

“Basically, we’ve built out systematic touch points,” Riley tells WardsAuto.

Customized tools that are co-branded with dealerships include:

  • Customized messages on billing statements. These could be coupons for service and messages about upcoming specials at the dealership.
  • Targeted landing pages. This includes personalized URLs with customer account information, dealer information, pictures of cars and account management tools like a mileage calculator.
  • Customized emails. Toward the end of the contract, customers receive emails with specifics on their car, incentives, dealership maps and contract information to encourage a visit/contact. These emails have a 68% open rate, Riley says.
  • Digital coupons intended to get customers back to the dealership for service work. “Service messages perform exceptionally well,” Riley says.

“It is customer messaging at a regular cadence,” Riley tells WardsAuto.

Those messages range from a dealer including information about “fun” things such as local entertainment events to a video walk-around showing a customer how to inspect a lease car for potential damage and wear and tear before turning it in.

That helps lessees understand their financial responsibility for things such as deep scratches on a lease vehicle. “We don’t like to surprise our customers,” Riley says. 

She adds: “We are providing them with services, information and deals they wouldn’t necessarily get had we not been talking to them. We use everything from pure information to soft information.”

Conventional wisdom is that captive lenders representing a particular auto brand have a leg up on independent companies when it comes to customer retention.

But Riley says Ally is debunking that. “A non-captive that provides a robust customer experience has a higher loyalty rate than a captive.”