Selling finance and insurance has not changed much the last 10 years, but innovative tools and solutions have helped make the average F&I manager more productive while eliminating much of the drudgery of the job.
Aside from the significant emphasis placed on compliance, the changes have served to keep F&I departments fundamentally the same — a personal interaction between a consumer and a member of the dealership sales management team.
Given the electronic tools now at their disposal, should more be expected from F&I managers and the department as a whole?
Certainly the average productivity should be greater than ever, enabling a manager to be responsible for more deals on a monthly basis. The ability to transmit applications and receive decisions from myriad lenders with a single click of the mouse replaces what used to be a full-day's process, or sometimes even longer.
Moving product presentations from a step-sell process to a menu system has sped up customer sales presentations, which also allow for more customer transactions and sales. With electronic menus, F&I should be able to create a dynamic sales presentation with full disclosure and accuracy, minimizing customer confusion and potential re-writes and other problems.
To further reduce F&I contract errors — which are costly in terms of CSI and employee time — dealers should embrace electronic contracting. While the initial investment and monthly fees may not be attractive, the ultimate savings in time and money should offset it, while the compliance benefits make this a true must have for any progressive dealership. Additional lenders need to further commit to this product to help ensure greater dealer adoption, but e-contracting likely will be the standard soon.
Overall, the F&I manager should be able to process more transactions than before, with greater accuracy and full disclosure. The benchmark of 70 to 80 customers a month should be raised to 80 to 90. Much of the work that took up the managers' time can be more effectively managed and eliminated via technology.
Furthermore, opportunities should be available that weren't so before to expand F&I's reach and generate income that was not available due to just being so busy with the job basics.
Using CRM to identify missed aftermarket product sales opportunities and begin a direct marketing campaign should be able to generate incremental income for the department. Products such as service contracts or maintenance programs, which may not have been purchased at the initial sale, can be offered and followed up upon by F&I.
With so many lenders now available and accessible via DealerTrack and RouteOne, the F&I manager no longer should have to wait for the rep to show up at the dealership to locate the right lender partners. Moreover, the number of credit unions available via electronic application systems like CUDL are in the hundreds, which means dealerships have a large lender database at their disposal.
F&I managers now can actively search on their terms for lenders offering specific solutions. Expanding the credit spectrum they can comfortably offer makes sense for the store, and not just depend on the lender who takes them to lunch or golfing.
In essence, the F&I manager should be able to handle more deals than ever before, generating a higher PVR than ever before, while delivering a consistently high CSI customer presentation with full disclosure and legal compliance. The ability to integrate and leverage these solutions should be important for those dealerships interested in improving F&I effectiveness and productivity.
While it's often easy to search for some new product or other gimmick in the hopes of turning around a department, those never address the overall situation. The basic demands and skills needed for the position have evolved slightly, and for now still are dependent upon the individual and how they manage their job.
F&I consultant Bryan Dorfler works with dealerships, lenders and aftermarket providers nationwide. He is at [email protected].