A dealership finance and insurance guy beefed to fellow F&I folks about waiting more than two hours for another store to complete paperwork and deliver his newly leased vehicle.
The soft-boiled eggs hit the fan when he registered that complaint among compatriots. Many of them said he had a lot of nerve.
Some rapped him for buying from a competitor. (He responded the other dealership had the vehicle he really wanted.)
Mostly they thought his griping about waiting was way out of line. Of all people, he should know unforeseen factors – from paperwork problems to credit issues to a customer crush on a busy night – can hold things up, they said.
Waiting is the hardest part, Tom Petty said in a tune. He wasn’t singing about toe-tapping at a dealership F&I office, but he could have been, the way some people talk. Perceived F&I delays rank high among customer dissatisfaction on surveys.
Many dealerships try to make the process painless and quick, while at the same time arranging financing, covering all the legalities, taking care of business and selling aftermarket products.
But it’s hard to do all that and set a time record, too.
F&I is a delicate department. It’s also a major profit center. That’s evidenced by the top performers on the 2014 WardsAuto Dealer F&I 150. Their F&I revenue totaled $1.1 billion stemming from the sale of 433,508 new and 272,742 used vehicles.
WardsAuto polled some F&I pros, asking them what it takes to do the job well. Here’s what they say:
Danny Newton: “Process, process, process, and never deviate from that process. Also use the menu.”
Jim Dirks: “The 300% rule (presenting 100% of your products to 100% of your customers 100% of the time). Compliance and disclosure. Check your work before you bring the customer in. Check it as you go through it before turning the customer loose.”
Brian Kimble: “Best practices are a reflection of the people who use them. Be consistent in your process. Be patient with customers, but more importantly with coworkers.”
Tony Duaquier: “Process, compassion and accuracy.”
Steven Ellis: “Consistency.”
Jack Morelock: “Be friendly and noticeable on the floor. Spend time in the service department. Let people get to know you. That way, you will be much better at knowing them and their needs.
Patrick A. McPherson: “Sell value. No sleight of hands.”
Amber Wotring: “Educate the customer rather than sell to them.”
John J. Martinez: “Be involved in the front-end sales process when you can. Go in and close deals. My largest back-ends come from the customers I close up front.”
Charles Albrecht: “Educate your customer so they buy from you.”
Sara Fite: “Interview the customer on the floor before typing the deal. It builds rapport and you’re meeting them when they’re at their lowest anxiety level. Then pitch your menu or customer-option form based on what you learned (on the floor). Tell the customer what they don’t need so they trust you when you tell them what they do need.”
Paul Christenson: “Demonstrate servant leadership.”
Benjamin Moran: “Get out of the office and interview your customer before they come into your office. Do not trust third-party information. Avoid saying ‘F&I manager.’”
Josh Graham: “Build rapport early, before they come into your office with their guard up. Find their hot buttons and adapt to each and every customer, because they aren’t all the same. Different personality types demand different game plans for how you’ll present.”
Angela Barrett: “I live and breathe the 300 rule. Interview the customer every time, gathering information about their ownership and driving habits. Then present a cost-effective way to lower their overall cost of ownership.
“Be open to new ideas, new ways of presenting. I walk the service and sales departments every day, talk to everyone, ask if they are seeing the benefits of our products to the customer. I ask the sales folks if I can help on any deals, call any customers for them. Be involved.”
Marv Eleazer: “I like the simple meet-and-greet. It buys me time when a customer is credit challenged or I’m backed up.”