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Quality guarantees are the name of the game in 2009. On the consumer side, ServiceMagic and Idearc Yellow Pages have guaranteed the quality of work for their advertisers. Now, on the advertiser side, Cobalt’s Dealix is guaranteeing the quality of the leads it provides to auto dealers.

Lead quality has been a major sore point in the business, as dealers complain that the leads they’ve been sold are often sold to multiple players at once and also may be based on old information (i.e., car owners may have already made a purchase). Even when the leads are good, dealers often end up paying for leads they can’t use if they accidentally dial bad numbers, etc.

Dealix EVP and GM Anna Zornosa says her team realized that there was “a lack of confidence” in the leads Dealix and rival companies were offering — in Dealix’s case, for an average price of $20 each. “This is going to change the game. We’re going to back it up,” she says.

Dealix’s pledge guarantee assures that leads represent an “active, in-market, and motivated” adult with a working phone number. It also promises that it is not a duplicate, and that Dealix will give out first dibs on the lead, ahead of competitors.

The way Dealix’s guarantee works is that the company provides dealers with access to its extranet, where it sends out leads and confirms their validity, using TargusInfo‘s leads verification service. If leads are acted on and don’t get a response within a reasonable time, Dealix simply takes it off the bill under its “hassle free” promise. The company’s stats show that most leads are acted on within three days.

Failed leads don’t necessarily mean cash back. Generally, they just open the way to send out another “good lead” since most dealers are buying subscriptions for a set number. Eighty percent, in fact, have a cap on the number of leads they’ll take.

Ultimately, Zornosa expects the leads program to boost Dealix’s volume, since it provides incentives to dealers to get to the leads early and often. The company already processes 300,000 leads a month, she notes.

The program will also provide “real time information on where problems exist” in the leads cycle, says Zornosa. Problems will be readily apparent in areas where there is a pattern of lead failure.

The program should also help reinforce the most progressive dealers. While 25 percent of auto dealer sales now come from Internet leads, says Zornosa, the best dealerships are getting 40 percent of their sales from the Internet.

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