The auto industry is beginning to see a transformation not only in how dealerships engage prospects online, but maintaining a "customer first" approach after they walk into the showroom. As impressive and needed as the engagement and sales improvements have been, the industry has yet to truly take on transforming the typcial F&I product purchase experience. But why?
It's no secret, the research is clear. Your prospects and customers are asking Principal Dealers to meet them half way. While they understand buying a car will never be as simple as purchasing a book on Amazon, consumers are asking for greater process efficiencies as well as increased transparency and interactivity to what is still considered a top 3 "major" purchase for American consumers. Thankfully, Dealers are listening.
F&I remains the greatest profit center in most auto dealerships. It has provided both clients and dealerships alike with win/win solutions that, if offered in a way that truly connects with people, will continue to deliver long-term value.
Other than General Managers, F&I Managers make more money than any other employees at the dealership according to a 2015 NADA study. So it's surprising at first glance why F&I turnover rates and attrition is among the highest in the auto industry. After thorough research, I discovered a key insight that revealed the source of the stress and negative stigma associated with the typical F&I product purchase experience: Disconnection.
Great strides have been made, both in training and technology, to create a more relational and intuitive sales process that makes connecting with prospective clients better. But the traditional F&I product purchase experience continues to lag behind. Here are two key reasons as to why:
It may sound trivial or just another soft skill, but the ability to create human connection cannot be underestimated, powerful results are only the bi-product. When it comes to creating this kind of connection in F&I, we need to remember the three basic principles of connecting. Our clients are asking (whether consciously or subconsciously) these three critically important questions:
When we fail to provide our clients with an unequivocal "Yes!" to these three questions, we create relational barriers between us. Learning to create connection is a learned skill that can be taught and caught through training, role playing and simple practice. But most importantly, we have to get honest with ourselves about our own motives and set right whatever is not in the best interest of our clients.
To be fair, the F&I function was not set up for success from the beginning. Since the creation of F&I departments, the traditional model typcially did not provide F&I with an "open concept" approach to engaging clients. Whether you were in the F&I "Box" or a small office, the dynamics of the F&I space did not lend itself to creating a transparent and interactive experience with clients.
Today, we typcially hide behind a computer screen. Whether it's a laptop or a desktop, we create a barrier between us and our clients (and usually their spouses as well). Because they cannot see what you're typing, it immediately fosters mistrust and creates disconnection as it leaves your clients to wonder, "What are you hiding?"
First and foremost, we need to be responsive to the demands of customers to continue to provide greater transparency and interactivity to the F&I product purchase experience. This will look different for different dealerships, but it will need to include the strategic decision to invest in technology that offers a truly interactive and transparent experience. In addition to F&I products, we offer our Principal Dealers a roadmap to improve the retail purchase experience from start to finish. To learn more about our F&I platform, please sign up for our upcoming webinar or visit us at www.tripacdealer.com