Often, I find myself busy multitasking. You know – writing an email, while thinking about an upcoming meeting, and having a partial conversation with a colleague. I’m trying to do all of these things at once – and often not very well.
The F&I office can feel like that sometimes. There is a lot to do, yet the customer just wants to drive home in their new car. As dealerships look to streamline their operations, shortening the time spent in the F&I office is one tactic to consider. But shortening time does not mean cutting corners. Let’s start at the beginning – with a good team of employees who understand their role in the car buying process.
Good employees are hard to find. But once you have a good team in place, they need to be well-trained on your F&I process. Following the process the same way – every time – ensures that nothing is missed and no corners are cut. Actually, following a process inherently saves time. It becomes second nature and your staff will be at ease.
At Empire Dealer Services, we offer an “F&I 101” class for salespeople. Entitled F&I Transparency for Satisfied Customers, this session provides the sales staff with a very basic understanding of the F&I department’s role within the dealership and its importance to customers. The training also teaches salespeople some very basic guidelines on how they can support their F&I team and help ensure a productive customer transaction. Our customers have found this training to be invaluable.
“In the 32 years that I have been employed in the automotive field, I do not think I have enjoyed finance meetings as much as I have during the last few years when Ed is conducting them.”
– Pamela J. Harwood, CEO, Peters of Nashua
Let’s investigate some of these F&I roles. Your sales team also needs to understand the F&I managers are an important cog in a well-oiled machine. Their step in the process is just as important as the next step. Involve the F&I director from the moment the customer says, “I want to buy this car.” The F&I director can easily conduct an initial customer interview to obtain all the information needed to structure the loan. At this time, they can also answer questions and begin gathering the information needed to present the F&I products in the most efficient way possible.
Before giving the floor back to the sales representative, the F&I director can set the timeline for the customer on how long the rest of the process will take. Inform the customer that the F&I department will begin work on their paperwork and securing the loan. The important part here is to reduce or eliminate downtime for the customer. The customer’s clock on how long the F&I process takes doesn’t start until they get into the office, so it’s important to get everything done before their clock starts. When the entire dealership is running smoothly, that saves time too.
Once the customer is in the F&I office, are you bombarding them with a dizzying array of products? Step back and analyze your target customer base and how your menu can relate to compliance. As you know, F&I managers must present 100% of your F&I products to 100% your customers 100% of the time. But consider the number of products you have on your menu. Is it more than 6? Are you using the quantitative approach of including as many products as possible on your menu with the hope that one or two stick?
Think about the right number of products to offer. Are you wasting your customers’ time by offering products they don’t need? Consider implementing a menu with only 4-6 products that best match the wants and needs of your customers. This type of streamlining makes your F&I team’s job easier, faster and more efficient for the customer, and most importantly, compliant.
To shorten your time in the F&I office you need a cooperative and well-honed approach between both the sales and F&I teams. It also means having the right product portfolio for your customers and the right training in place for the entire team. Contact Empire Dealer Services to learn how to ensure F&I multi-tasking doesn’t get in the way of a successful sale and a happy customer.