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Done Deal

Beyond the Sale

June 12, 2013

The video opens with a customer standing in front of the dealership, waiting for a flatbed truck to drop off his Chevrolet Silverado. As the truck pulls up, a sharply dressed man walks up to greet him.

“Hey, Miles,” the man says. “What’s going on here?”

“Hi, G.P.,” the customer responds. “I was out setting up the crew in the grain field this morning when I ran over something and got a flat tire on my truck.”

“On your brand-new truck here?” G.P. responds. “Wow! Good thing you’re getting it towed in. We’ll have someone take a look at it shortly.”

“Is it going to be long?” Miles asks.

“You’re a preferred customer,” G.P. answers. “We’ll get it in there right away.”

The individual who greeted the customer wasn’t a sales rep; it was G.P. Anderson. He’s a veteran F&I pro at Thielen Motors in Park Rapids, Minn., and our 2011 F&Idol winner.

The next scene shows Anderson in his office, handing his customer a piece of his tire with a metal rod sticking through the tread into the sidewall.

“That’s what was in your tire, Miles,” G.P. says. “Didn’t you purchase that tire-and-wheel coverage?”

“Yes, I did,” the customer responds.

“Boy, that’s going to pay off for you big time on this deal, because not only does it cover road hazards … it’s also going to cover the cost to repair or replace your covered wheels that can no longer maintain an airtight seal and can’t be properly balanced.”

Anderson then tells his customer that the tire-and-wheel policy he purchased will cover the $1,020 repair order, and that he still has 58 months’ worth of coverage. He and his customer then turn to the camera before the scene fades to black.

The video was Anderson’s entry for the 2012 F&Idol contest. It didn’t win the category, but it did get plenty of votes. It came to mind recently as I was prepping one of my editors for her trip to a conference in June to see Rick Hackett, an assistant director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), speak. I wondered if Anderson was on to something with his video that I didn’t catch last year.

Over the years, many of you have told me you won’t buy a vehicle without purchasing a service contract or some other F&I protection. I love when you guys and gals tell me that. It shows me you stand by what you sell. However, I never hear any of you talk about the things you do to ensure your customers take full advantage of the protections you sold them.

I guess I feel like we’re sometimes too focused on the sale and not enough on what happens after the customer drives off. I know you’re paid on what you move, but couldn’t a little after-sale effort pay off when the customer returns to purchase their next vehicle?

I would take it even further by sending periodic notices to remind customers of the protections they purchased. Use that letter to ask them if they’re having any issues with their vehicle, or maybe to remind them of any scheduled maintenance their vehicle will need. Heck, maybe your store could use this type of reminder to tell a customer he or she may be in the perfect position to purchase a new vehicle and lower his or her monthly payments.

Look, it’s clear regulators question the value of the products we sell. So wouldn’t it make for a powerful statement to regulators if we could show them how our products can pay for themselves?

I also bring up Anderson’s video to tell you that we’re now accepting submissions for the 2013 F&Idol contest, which IAS is sponsoring once again. No, we’re not asking you to show us how you reconnect with customers after the sale. We’re still looking for entries showcasing your closing skills, and we’re still going to be handing out $1,000 to each of our five category winners and an extra  $2,500 to the overall winner.

There is one change we’ve made. This year, we’ve replaced our GAP category with a new one: F&I Products for Lease Customers. Hey, new-vehicle leasing rose 12.5 percent in the first quarter vs. a year ago to its highest level since Experian Automotive began tracking the metric in 2006, accounting for a record 27.5 percent of all new vehicles financed. So we thought our contest should reflect this market dynamic, as well as the slew of new F&I product offerings geared toward the lease customer.

Other categories include VSC, Tire and Wheel, Key Replacement and an open category. You can upload your videos and find contest rules by clicking here. I’m a judge again this year, so I look forward to seeing your entries. The deadline is July 26, so get on it. 

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