How long does it take for a sold customer to get into the F&I office? That was the question sales trainer Fran Taylor recently posed to a group of F&I managers on Facebook. I’ve written on this subject before, but the question Taylor posed offered a little twist.
See, a dealership he works with has an F&I manager who, with the help of a single assistant, spins 125 deals per month. Well, as you can imagine, the store’s CSI scores were hurting. The dealer wanted a solution. To me, it sounded more like a staffing issue rather than a broken F&I process. Making customers wait always hurts customer satisfaction.
I’m sure most of you will agree that it takes a couple of hours to complete a deal once the customer steps onto the lot. The process usually includes needs discovery, demo, negotiation and completion of the credit app. We also need to factor in the customer’s shopping process, which could include hours, if not days or months, of research online. So, the clock is ticking even before they ever enter the dealership.
We also need to keep in mind that the customer’s clock spins at light speed the moment F&I enters the picture. In their minds, they’ve already passed through the most difficult part of buying a car. But as we all know, entering the F&I office is when the real work begins.
In a perfect world, it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for the F&I manager to load the deal and complete all the necessary compliance checks before he or she is ready for the customer. In this ideal situation, our sales and F&I process is up to two hours and 20 minutes. So far, so good.
Well, recent research from J.D. Power and Associates reveals that customers are actually spending a lot more time in the dealership than ever before — 4.3 hours to be exact. The report attributed the increase in time to salespeople having to demonstrate the high-tech gadgetry equipping today’s vehicles during the post-F&I delivery, so keep that in mind as well.
If we agree that time is of the essence, let’s reconsider Taylor’s question. Remember, he wanted to know how long it takes for the customer to transition into F&I. While there are a number of reasons the F&I producer might delay delivery, there had better be a really good reason for delaying the customer’s turnover to F&I.
Ideally, the salesperson should immediately deliver the completed deal and any pertinent information to the finance office. After the initial deal analysis, examination of the credit and OFAC and identity checks, the F&I manager should make his or her way out to the showroom to greet the customer. This is your first and best chance to explain the F&I process and how long it will take. After that, the producer should then return to his or her office to submit the deal for approval and load it into the DMS. Assuming the customer’s credit and deal structure are adequate, the transition time should take around 15 to 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In the real world, there are the intricacies of nearprime and subprime deals to contend with. There are occasions where a deal involving a good-credit customer doesn’t fit the lender’s loan-to-value limits, and his or her clock doesn’t stop ticking so we can work our magic.
What can be a real time saver is eliminating mistakes or making sure nothing is missing in the deal, which sales management can do by checking deals before they get to F&I. If that doesn’t help, ask yourself the following questions to figure out the problem:
• How long does it take for producers to complete the various steps of the F&I process?
• How long does it take after the customer commits for the deal to reach the F&I office?
• What is the average time needed for approval on a nonprime, subprime and prime deal?
• How long does it take for the deal to be entered into the DMS?
• How long does it take for the customer to actually enter the F&I office after the meet-and-greet in the showroom?
With that information, you can begin formulating an action plan. Share it across all departments so that everyone in the dealership knows what to do if a deal is taking longer than normal.
The profits from F&I can represent more than 40 percent of the dealership’s net. It’s vital that we do all we can to fine tune this department and the departments that support it. And yes, I’m talking about sales. Hey, we can’t do our jobs without them!
Marv Eleazer is the finance manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. E-mail him at email@example.com.