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Making the Final Round

The editor offers a few tips on becoming a 2017 F&I Pacesetter and winning the magazine’s coveted F&I Dealer of the Year award.

June 21, 2016

A communications person recently emailed me about our annual F&I Dealer of the Year contest. He wanted to know what the magazine team looks for when making our selections. With the deadline to nominate a dealership coming up on July 10, I thought I’d share my response.

Yes, performance numbers do count, but a nominee needs more than performance numbers to stand out. And winning an award like the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics does just that. Reviews are also key. If a store has a bunch of two stars on Yelp, Google, DealerRater and other review sites, that might raise some flags. And, yes, I do separate service reviews from those involving sales and F&I.

I also like to see F&I teams that have earned compliance certifiation with organizations like Automotive Compliance Education and the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals. It tells me the dealership is serious about compliance.

I also like to read about your store’s commitment to training. How often do you do it? Does F&I staff have to complete some type of educational program before getting in front of the customer? What about your store’s sales staff? Are they trained on compliance?

Community awards are also key. I also like to see a nice list of volunteerism and community organizations the dealership or group supports. I especially like operations that have spearheaded a program. So if your dealership established a food bank, a mentorship program, a scholarship fund or community foundation, nominate your store or client today.

The nomination form also contains sections on the dealership’s sales process and compliance checks. Writing, “We believe in menu compliance,” won’t cut it. Besides, what does “menu compliance” mean? I want to know what compliance checks you employ, how often deal audits are performed and whether you schedule annual independent audits. Again, the more detail you give me, the better.

I also want to know how long the F&I team has been together. Not only does that tell me the F&I department is doing things right, it tells me the dealership takes care of its producers.

Writing “the customer comes first” also doesn’t work. I want to know your transaction times and how you ensure the customer doesn’t spend any more time in the dealership than he or she needs to. I also want to know about tech tools you employ to shorten transaction times or to increase transparency.

I would especially like to hear about a store that has beefed up the F&I section of its website with videos that introduce customers to F&I staffers, and provide information on the process and products sold in that department.

And tell me about your process. Do you believe in the interview? What questions do you ask? How many deals are your producers handling per month? What about time off with family and other employee benefits (this is very critical)?

If your store or client’s store employs the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Fair Credit Compliance Policy & Program, I want to know about it. Additionally, if your store employs a complaint management system or process, include that in the nomination form. If you can give me examples of how that system or process has improved satisfaction or maybe turned a bad review into a positive one, include that in the nomination form.

With all that said, a nominee’s performance numbers do count, because it’s a little difficult honoring a store averaging $1,000 per copy when the other finalists are at $1,300 per copy or above. That doesn’t mean we’ve haven’t had a group averaging $1,000 per copy make the finals. In fact, a dealer group averaging just that was named an F&I Pacesetter in 2015. The reason was the group’s host of CSI wards and distinctions, the more than 60 community organizations it supported, and the $9.5 million in donations the group had made in recent years.

My main message is this: Tell me your story. The more detail you provide, the better. Now get to it by clicking here. You have until July 8 to complete the form at the end of that link.

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