Time Management for a Better Bottom Line and Improved CSI

Time Management for a Better Bottom Line and Improved CSI

As the owner of a company that provides temporary F&I staffing nationwide, we have a unique view into the daily operations of a broad spectrum of dealerships. Unlike an agent or training company that may visit a store periodically and never sit behind the desk and spin deals with a customer, our F&I temps literally become part of the dealership team, often for weeks at a time.

Our mandate with the dealer is to affect a proper delivery. What this means to us is to finalize the transaction in a legal and ethical manner while making a profit. What makes our task truly daunting from a customer satisfaction perspective is that we have two customers-the one in front of us buying the car and the dealer himself who got stuck without a finance manager and hired us to fill in.

It is impossible for us not to notice the general perception of the car buying public that it takes entirely too long to purchase a vehicle. There also appears to be a correlation between the efficiency of a dealership's operation and its profitability and customer satisfaction worth exploring.

In a time sensitive industry, a sense of urgency is perception, and the way we manage our time is increasingly critical. Today, maintaining customer satisfaction while generating revenue in the F&I department is essential to the success of any automobile franchise. Both require an element of time management acceptable to the customer and profitable for the dealership.

The days of budget crunching are here. Dealers have consolidated their expenses and are constantly looking for ways to save a buck. Office staffs have thinned and the F&I office has taken up a lot of the clerical slack. Some responsibilities include, but are not limited to product cancellations, packaging deals for the bank, setting up the initial service appointments after the sale, taking surveys in the F&I office to direct advertising dollars-a lot of things that don't necessarily have an immediate effect on the bottom line.

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying the F&I manager shouldn't be doing their share to help out. Let's look at the flow of traffic. If your F&I manager is spinning 75 deals a month or less, then he/she probably has enough time to take on a few extra responsibilities to help out around the house. One factor that may change the equation is the sudden influx of business at a particular time of the day. Your dealership may not have much going on during the day, but may have several deliveries in the latter hours of the evening.

How much per minute does your F&I office earn? If you take an average of 45 minutes per customer along with a PVR of $1000 you're making $22 a minute or $1320 an hour. At that hourly rate how much clerical paperwork do you want handled in the F&I office? The more time your F&I manager has to sell, the more money he's making the store. Let's look at it another way. There are two piles. One is income producing and one is not. Which one works better for you? Is it costing you $22 a minute in lost selling time to descramble a lot of paperwork?

"Deal Flow" is also very important. Going back and forth for what is needed from the sales person or sales desk breaks the flow and causes inconsistencies in the transaction and is detrimental to customer satisfaction. If you don't have a seamless transaction from the sales desk to the F&I office then there is a lack of sequential flow. There are five essential documents and a wrapper every F&I manager must have in order to do their job in a timely manner. They are as follows:

Buyers order: One legible document signed by the customer disclosing all the numbers and customers' information pertinent to the sales transaction. The buyers order should also include all information regarding the sold vehicle, trade vehicle, mileage on both, insurance information, and trade payoff. Consolidating this information avoids wasting time panning through piles of paperwork in order to find bits of information at a time.

Driver's License: There should be a copy of the driver's license from all who are involved in the registration of the vehicle.

Credit Application: Filled out, accurate and signed.

Book Out / Invoice: Even if the customer has a huge down payment this document will be needed for funding, so it should always be included up front in order to keep the flow moving forward. Just because there is a substantial amount of equity in the deal or a high credit score doesn't mean it's OK to guess the book value of a vehicle. Banks want exact figures.

We Owe: This crucial document should always be included in the deal so there is no question what, if anything is owed to the customer after they have taken delivery of the vehicle.

Deal Folder with a Checklist: A checklist signed by a sales manager is the key element here. Before a deal goes to finance, another set of eyes proofing the required documents needed to finalize a deal is the single most important step in minimizing the likelihood of the process grinding to a halt when the finance manager must excuse himself to gather an important piece of information.

Another frustrating item not often considered is the speed and capability of the PC in the finance office. In the age of computer generated menus, lending portals, online DMV registrations, e-contracting, and so many other windows and internet based programs f&i managers utilize, it is more important than ever before to have a computer and printer that can handle all the tasks demanded of it in a timely manner. A computer that constantly freezes up whenever more than a couple of programs are running at a time is hurting your pocketbook and your goodwill. Picture your F&I manager navigating through the menu or an e-contract only to encounter a problem with the computer. Having to stop and reboot or wait while the hourglass spins in the middle of the presentation breaks the flow, wastes time, creates frustration with an already impatient customer, and ultimately costs you money.

A quick and inexpensive fix to help any PC handle multiple applications simultaneously is to add more RAM. We find most PC's in dealerships have as little as 512 megabytes of RAM when the minimum you should consider is at least 1 gigabyte. There is no such thing as too much RAM, just ask any gamer or tech guru who relies heavily on internet applications.

Lastly, the internet bandwidth available to the finance office could be a bottleneck. Check out any free online internet bandwidth speed test (like www.speedtest.net) to see what yours is. If your download speed is less than 1 MB/s, there's your problem. First, and again the least expensive fix is to have a policy in the dealership that if you are not at that moment conducting dealership business on the web, always close your browser sessions. The next step would be to increase your bandwidth. Chances are many departments in the dealership are using online applications that were not envisioned when the original bandwidth needs were spec'd out.

You will find that the cost of increasing your bandwidth to the dealership ends up costing you less than what it would cost to have disgruntled customers-unless of course your finance manager is a comedian and entertainer in his spare time.

Frank Martin

F&I Solutions, Inc.

TEL : 919-696-5138


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