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From the NCM Institute Blog: Dealerships Can’t Hide Shady Sales Practices from Snitchers

Today I'm pleased to introduce Rebecca Chernek of Chernek Consulting (CCI) as NCMi’s newest Up To Speed Guest Expert. Rebecca specializes in Finance & Insurance training to Automotive, RV, Powersport and Marine dealers nationwide. With an impressive automotive retail background spanning over 25+ years, Rebecca has hands-on, proven experience in automotive retail including sales, director of finance and general management. She has worked with industry leaders such as JM&A and AutoNation and offers customized in-dealership training and workshops throughout the United States.  --Garry House

Henry Ford once said,

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

If your dealership isn’t running as smoothly as you’d like; if you can’t seem to hang on to the good salespeople; if your finance officer is turning in sloppy paper work; if you’re getting too many complaints from customers...maybe it’s time to start from the beginning. And while you’re at it, dispel a few myths that have clouded your thinking.

Myth: Compliance begins and ends in the finance department. It can be manipulated.

Fact: Compliance with every FTC regulation should be strictly enforced and supervised throughout your dealership.

Myth: Menu selling takes place only in the finance department.

Fact: Menu selling is a dealership philosophy. It begins when a customer sets foot on the property and encompasses the entire sales process, in both front and backend negotiations. It’s about being transparent about everything discussed after “hello.” Transparency means clear, obvious, visible . . . honest.

Myth: There’s little to no supervision of compliance; it takes forever for a new regulation to be enacted. It’s too hard to keep up with them.

Fact: When the Dodd-Frank Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed in July of 2010, it granted the FTC power to enact new rules every year, rather than every seven, and to regulate dealer financing. The FTC was also given power to turn over some of its former duties to the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), which is encouraging consumer and employee complaints. If you can’t keep up with the regulations, hire an expert who can and vigorously train and retrain your staff.

In 2011, the FTC received 77,435 auto-related complaints about new car and used car sales! In addition, consumer filed complaints about car leasing and rental, loans, parts and repairs, warranty plans and services in general. Compliance and staff training will limit or lessen complaints about your dealership.

Myth: You’ve gotten away with “doing your own thing” in the past and nothing has happened except more sales and higher profits.

Fact: Those days are over. The Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and a host of other tools enable your current customers, potential customers who were dissatisfied with initial service and left without making a purchase, or one of your own employees or ex-employees to spread negative comments about your service or policies that can injure your community reputation or profitability; they can also file an instant complaint with the CFPB, which is making it easier for them to accomplish through an email or use of a “hot line” and with promised anonymity. Think about that!

Myth: You haven’t had time to read through the documents. There are too many.

Fact: Make time! Every dealership has had two years to study Dodd-Frank and the FTC, local and state regulations. No excuses are accepted. Every dealership is wholly responsible for ensuring that every single employee who enters through its door understands the rules and regulations and what could happen to their job and to the dealership if they’re not followed. The buck stops at the top.

Then with your sales and finance managers. Allow no spiff programs to aggressively sell one product over another; no purposely confusing customers into buying a car or products they don’t want or can’t afford; no payment packing; no shortcuts in discussing payments and rates; no speaking in F&I “code” that isn’t understood by customers; no presentation of the menu before the base payment; and no hedging on the buying terms of the vehicle with APR and term.

Be visible. Observe what’s going on. Ask questions. Examine paperwork.

Finance should no longer bear total responsibility for compliance and menu offerings. Make it a dealership philosophy and encourage cooperation between sales and finance. Then you won’t spend sleepless nights wondering if and when the CFPB will show up at your door or if your doors will close. You’ll have no snitches.

Rebecca Chernek offers customized in-dealership consultation and training programs including "CCI Closing Tools & Mastering Menu Selling" November 13-15. Learn more at www.ccilearningcenter.com, or contact Rebecca at 404-276-4026 or email becky@chernekconsulting.com

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Comment by Doug Davis on November 8, 2012 at 10:14am

In 2011, the FTC received 77,435 auto-related complaints about new car and used car sales!

In a recent article, both the FTC and the State's Attorney Generals are tired of dealing with the huge numbers of complaints coming from automotive customers.  It suggested that the FTC and Attorney Generals are working together.  

I recently was reading one review site where a customer stated, "when I received my contract in the mail".  There were others that suggested that the F&I Manager was shirt sleeving contracts, forging a customer's signature on rebate forms and several complaints of pulling credit without authorization.  

The government has computers.  When the bureaucrats get tired of watching porn, they might happen on to one of these review sites.

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