Advising a customer
Service consultant Mike Volkman advocates scheduling that gives advisers more time between customers.

Selling F&I in Car Dealership Service Lane Pays Off

“Cross-department selling like this helps build experience cohesion and brand consistency and strengthens the customer relationship and retention,” says Jim Maxim Jr., president of MaximTrak.

Dealerships that sell F&I products in service lanes create more opportunities for customer retention, sales and synergy, says Jim Maxim, Jr., president of MaximTrak, a RouteOne company.

“Part of your market for F&I products presented in the service drive are those customers who declined to purchase aftermarket products in the F&I office when buying their vehicle,” says Maxim, who also is RouteOne’s chief digital officer.

He advises dealers and their service managers to arm advisers with brochures and point-of-sale material, keeping those at hand for presenting and explaining aftermarket product benefits to customers.

“Cross-department selling like this helps build experience cohesion and brand consistency, and strengthens the customer relationship and retention,” he says.

Service consultant Mike Volkman contends most service advisers are asked to serve more customers a day than is good for the adviser or the business.

He advocates scheduling that gives advisers more time between customers. He says advisers should write no more than 15 repair orders per shift.

Using standard scheduling math shows the opportunity: eight hours a day times 60 minutes equals 480 minutes. Dividing that by 15 results in 32 minutes available per customer.

By keeping to no more than 15 repair orders per adviser per day, advisers have a half hour with each customer for explaining inspection results, discussing repair and maintenance options, offering to upsell and cross-sell considerations and, increasingly, presenting and selling F&I aftermarket products.

Service advisers often are thought of as dealerships’ frontline retention ambassadors. Service engages more people in a day than most showroom personnel does in a week.

Advisers are more effective when they understand the value of what they present to customers, Maxim says. “Customers first need to ‘see’ the value of the products or services an adviser is talking to them about, whether the product is prepaid maintenance, service contracts, tire and wheel programs, or other items that do add value to their lives.”

Technology can help. For example, Maxim points to digital presentation tools viewable on the adviser’s tablet or smartphone. Customers can select product options and pricing on e-menu screens, with transaction data customized for that customer’s specific vehicle and interests.

Increasingly, selling F&I in service is a growing opportunity to build retention that translates into repeat vehicle purchases, says Ryan Williams, president of prepaid maintenance provider Fidelis PPM.

For instance, advisers at Town Center Nissan in suburban Atlanta sell prepaid maintenance (PPM) benefits – synthetic oil change, tire rotation, multipoint inspection and car wash. Six advisers sell about 160 PPMs each a month. Their closing rate is 90% for customers driving vehicles having 30,000 miles (48,000 km) to 60,000 miles (96,000 km), says Rick Mathis, the dealership’s parts and service director.

The dealership brands its PPM the VIP Service. It features a $219 retail value of routine maintenance services discounted to $119. Its redemption by customers is contributing to increases in both retention and customer-pay business, says Mathis, noting the dealership’s customer-pay repair order count is up 8% and customer-pay labor sales up 12% over a year ago.

“Advisers have embraced the program,” he says. “Having been an adviser, I know it’s hard to get an adviser to embrace much. But they truly enjoy selling this PPM program.”

As an incentive, the dealership provides advisers the opportunity to increase their monthly pay by $400 through PPM spiffs.

How does management implement such a program?

First, advisers work from a scheduling plan that permits more time between customers.

Second, they use F&I menu-selling tools in the lane from which they can present and sell aftermarket product options and prices.

Third, the dealership measures results through a reporting system.

Jim Leman has been writing about automotive operations since 1992. Contact him at [email protected]

TAGS: Fixed Ops
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