Can F&I and Modern Retailing Co-Exist?

Today’s consumers demand, and deserve, a fast and modern (digital) way to buy cars. Our industry has taken great strides to get there, but we still have a way to go. Especially when it comes to F&I.

 

The F&I process sucks time. It’s unlikely that buying a car will ever be as quick as picking up a few things at Target, but it doesn’t need to drag on for hours either. Including F&I as part of an easier, seamless process will help our industry attract younger customers and transition to modern retailing.

 

Quick refresher: Modern retailing refers to the marriage of technology (digital retailing tools) and internal processes to better serve customers in a virtual world. The idea is to create a customer experience where the dealership follows the customer’s lead for how he/she wants to purchase a vehicle. It recognizes that technology alone can’t transform the way we sell to meet current customer expectations. Internal processes have to change too.

 

In my last blog I talked about tweaking internal sales structures to implement modern retailing.

In this blog, I’m going to talk about why current F&I processes are a hindrance to a modern workflow and how to fix it.

 

The problem with F&I

 

Why did we create the F&I manager position? I’d argue the F&I office came into existence because dealerships hire salespeople but don’t train them to develop relationships. They train them to get the best price for a vehicle. Once they’ve beaten down the customer, they flip them to F&I where presumably the manager creates a relationship and gets the customer to buy additional products.

 

The thinking goes that it’s okay to pay F&I managers more because they have customer relationships, and relationships with financing sources. But guess what? Customers hate the F&I office, and no financing source is going to leave simply because the F&I manager leaves.

 

Why do we still do it this way?

 

I believe we still follow the same old process out of fear of letting go. Dealers don’t trust salespeople to present menus, make sure all the paperwork is correct, ensure all contracts-in-transit are clean, so that they will get paid promptly on purchase.

 

The current process may be good for dealers, but it makes it harder for customers to buy a car! It makes no sense.

 

Think about it: A customer finds a car, falls in love, negotiates a price, agrees on a monthly payment, and then goes into F&I to talk about add-ons, which increase the monthly payment. Why spend all that time negotiating price only to spend more time j****** it up again?

 

What’s the alternative?

 

The alternative is to bundle all aspects of a sale into one solution that reduces the paper trail and leads both salesperson and customer through each step of the process.

 

It starts with a robust CRM that accurately calculates all aspects of the deal, including agreed upon purchase price and licensing fees. The CRM then pushes the deal to a digital menu presentation customized for the vehicle and customer, and the final monthly payment is calculated. From there, the deal is pushed to a digital signing platform. Salespeople cannot screw up because they’re working within one platform with prescribed next steps that cannot be skipped.

 

When you encompass everything in one solution and cut-out the time-intensive and unnecessary F&I presentation, the process is shorter, customers are happier, and you increase CSI.

 

How can we train salespeople?

 

You can’t expect to hire-away a kid from Starbucks and throw them into this new salesperson role. At the end of the day, vehicle contracts are lengthy and are legal documents. Salespeople must be trained for this new role.

 

Train salespeople on the contract. Review the pages, make sure they know how to explain them, and why they are necessary. Then, include salespeople in all finance and CIT meetings. 

 

Dealers also need to hire for personality. I want solution consultants who have great personality, really listen to what customers want, and work to help the customer, not just make a sale for the dealership. These qualities help build rapport and trust with customers which are essential to more F&I sales. After all, people buy things from people they trust.

 

 

F&I and modern retailing can co-exist if we forget the “box” and instead include F&I on one sales platform with prescribed steps that cannot be skipped. When the industry said we had to present the finance menu to every customer every time, there was backlash. Many good people quit, but today every store is doing it. I project the same trajectory for switching-up the F&I office. There will be backlash. Good people will quit. Eventually it will become standard practice, which is great for our industry. A modern, efficient workflow will make it easier for customers to buy cars. Isn’t that what we all want?

 

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