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To record or not to record? The editor sifts through yet another debate on whether dealers should video record what happens in the F&I office.

December 23, 2013

One thing I’ve always appreciated about F&I trainers is that they are all very cordial to each other, even when their philosophies on the business are fundamentally opposed. For the most part, objections to what one trainer teaches are relegated to a shake of the head and maybe an under-the-breath comment. But you never see them disagree in public.

Well, that run ended during the final panel discussion at this year’s F&I Conference. It included in-house trainers from Allstate Dealer Services, Cal-Tex, GSFSGroup and Warrantech. Also on the panel was Steve Veldkamp, a compliance and F&I trainer for Great Lakes Companies, a general agency based in Michigan. The topic that stirred things up was video recording what happens in the F&I office. Veldkamp and trainer John Lovin endorsed the use of video as a training tool, but not everyone on the panel and in the audience was in agreement.

The topic actually came up during two earlier sessions. The first was a session on F&I technologies; the second was focused on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and moderated by compliance consultant Robert Harkins.

“If you line 10 [dealership attorneys] up in a row and ask them how they feel about videotaping, five of them will say it’s great,” Harkins said. “They’ll say the great thing about video is it shows and exposes everything. The other five will say the worst thing about videotaping is it shows and exposes everything.”

Several of the magazine’s past F&I Dealer of the Year winners actually swear by video as a training tool, including our 2012 winner, Dick Hannah Dealerships. Gary Allgeier and his F&I operation at Troy, Mich.-based The Suburban Collection, our 2009 F&I Dealer of the Year, also employ video as a training tool. I remember striking up a conversation with him after a panel discussion at one of our conferences. The panelists had talked about what F&I managers shouldn’t say when working with customers, and Allgeier told me he checks his videos to make sure his producers don’t go off script. Most importantly, he uses video to make sure his producers don’t add their personal opinions to the pitch.

See, Allgeier has a plan for how those videos are used. More importantly, he’s committed to that plan. But I also gathered from our conversation that he is confident his producers do it the right way — which is what Lovin said was a critical consideration.

“If you’re not afraid of your process, you shouldn’t be afraid of videotaping,” Lovin said.

In the room during the trainer session was Luis Garcia, Safe-Guard’s head of training. He made clear he wasn’t a fan of recording F&I transactions and engaged Lovin in an animated exchange. Like I said, I had never seen F&I trainers publicly disagree like that. Not even our panels on the customer interview or the iPad garnered such passion.

Earlier, at the CFPB panel, our legal experts were just as passionate when they discouraged one attendee from using video. It’s just too risky right now, they said.

“I’m absolutely opposed to that idea,” said Terry O’Loughlin, director of compliance for Reynolds and Reynolds. “For as good as finance managers are at times, other times they slip. You could be good 98 percent of the time, but that 2 percent of the time is what I think the agencies are looking for.”

Matt Nowicki, vice president of retail software for Innovative Aftermarket Systems, talked about his company’s video recording system. He acknowledged the tool was a source of some internal debates before it debuted in 2001. He said it was developed at the request of one of the company’s clients, a San Antonio-based dealer group.

“My boss said I was crazy, that nobody was going to do it,” Nowicki said. But he added that the group’s per-copy average has increased by $300 since the system was introduced. But there were other benefits as well. “They also … avoided countless lawsuits, have countersued dealers, have had the FBI involved in customer fraud cases where customers were defrauding the dealership.”

Folks, if you’re looking for someone to tell you whether video recording what goes on in the F&I office is a good idea or not, you’re not going to get it. The answer really has to come from you. Are you committed to using the system? Do you have a plan for how those videos will be reviewed and used?

If you’d like to see what a plan looks like, go to our website and search for “Record, Review, Reward, Repeat” by the aforementioned Steve Veldkamp, who counts The Suburban Collection as one of his clients. He provides a six-step plan on employing video as a training tool. He also opens up about the mistakes he made early on with video — insights that will help you reap the rewards and minimize the risks.

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