One of the advantages of spending time working in dealerships rather than just perpetually conducting training classes is that you get to see what works and what works even better in real life applications. In this article I thought I’d share some things you should consider implementing in your dealership to improve your F&I performance and enhance your customers’ experience in your dealership.
Present the menu on the showroom floor and not in the business office: Traditional thought and practice has always been to have the menu presented in the finance office, and then once the products have been presented via the menu, to complete the paperwork and move on to the next customer. Please don’t misunderstand, this practice works, and I’ve personally taught it for years. In real life, however, there are OEMs who survey customers on the “paperwork process,” and customers will often perceive that the time to complete the paperwork was “too long” and score the dealership low in this area.
While much of the paperwork is completely out of the control of a dealership, such as titling and registration forms, we can control the timing and location of the menu and thus change the perception of the “paperwork process” to a certain degree.
Consider conducting the menu on the showroom floor during the customer interview and immediately after the deal has been finalized by the sales department. The showroom floor is much less intimidating to the customer than the business office, and customers are much more receptive to a conversation in this setting.
The finance manger should sit next to the customer and not across from them and review the benefits of the products and how those products could/would be utilized by the customer. Once the menu has been completed, the customer can begin the “path” through the dealership and visit with the other departments. The finance manager now knows exactly what they need to get approved with the deal and will fight even harder for those products if they understand that it will impact their paycheck. It also ensures that 100 percent of the products will be presented rather than just a few products because of a limited approval that was obtained from a lender. Remember, customers do have the ability to pay separately for those products if needed, and dealerships do have the option to utilize other financing options for F&I products in certain situations.
After implementing this process and discussing it with the finance mangers as well as reviewing the sales results, I’m happy to report that it works, and works very well.
Video capture your closings: Products that are not sold on the floor should be reviewed one more time in the finance office by your finance manager. Adding a very inexpensive camera to your finance office (as low as $39) allows you to record the transaction and have the ability to review the closing with your finance team and discuss what was done well and what needs improvement.
Please note, you’ll have to post signs that you audio/video record the transaction and turn the camera off if the customer does not wish to be recorded. You should also check with your legal counsel to make sure there are no laws in your particular area preventing you from doing this. In the years I’ve been using cameras in numerous dealerships it has simply never been an issue.
The camera also gives you the ability to confirm any claims made by a customer. In one instance a customer stated that they told the finance manager to hold a check for a few days rather than to deposit it immediately. A review of the transaction proved that no such request had been made.
Video reviews should be done with the sales manager and business manager. How a customer is turned over to finance is equally important as the manner in which presentations are made. If the sales department is conducting the turnover in such a way as to infringe upon the ability to generate F&I profit, it will be apparent in the video.
100 percent proper and timely turnover: In some cases customers will want to utilize their own financing. This is not an issue. What is an issue is when a customer leaves your dealership to obtain that financing without first meeting your business manager.
In those situations, your customer can still continue to shop your offer. If your sales staff is bypassing the process by not turning over deals, then you’ll need to hit them in their pocket. The lack of turnover is most definitely hitting you in the pocket through lost sales and missed back-end profit opportunities. At the end of the day it’s the most effective way of ensuring compliance with your policies.
Two-day financing option: Another item you should consider would be to allow those customers who wish to use their own financing source two days to compete their paperwork with their own lender.
Here’s how it would work. Your finance manager would obtain financing for the customer through the dealership. All of the paperwork would be completed as normal and the customer allowed to leave with the unit. They would be given a note on your letterhead stating that they have two days in which to return with a check from another lender. You agree that should they do this, you will tear up the paperwork completed at your dealership and utilize their financing. This process helps reduce the amount of lost sales due to customers leaving and not coming back either because they changed their mind or were referred to another dealership. Should the customer not return, you are fully protected as you have a cashable contract you can submit to your lender.
Utilize these ideas and you’ll see an increase in your department’s performance.
Peter Jones is an industry trainer and consultant as well as founder of Peter Jones Powersports and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904/742-3080.