So much has been made about the time a customer spends at a dealership buying a vehicle. I understand the reasoning. Give customers too much time and you risk them having second thoughts. And let’s not forget what a muddy process does for one’s customer satisfaction index (CSI).

In our annual statistical guide last December, CNW Marketing reported that transaction times dropped from 143.7 minutes in 2001 to 130.7 minutes in 2007. However, time spent in F&I climbed from 21.4 minutes in 2001 to 32.8 minutes in 2006. Problem is, with all the disclosure rules out there, there’s no way F&I can be eliminated.

And if you caught George Angus’ story last month, then you know the problem doesn’t lie solely on F&I. In fact, Angus claims the part customers really despise is the sales negotiation process, or what you guys and gals call the track meet.

Then there’s J.D. Power and Associates’ 2007 Sales Satisfaction Index Study. Forty-four percent of customers surveyed said they’re spending more time than they planned to buy a vehicle. And while satisfaction scores for this group were 67 points less, the study does say customers are receptive to spending more time at the dealership if it means they’re being properly educated.

That’s why I’m not totally sold on less is best. It’s also why I think the focus should be on the entire sales process rather than on just one department. Think about it, none of those “stats” I threw out account for the time spent between sales and F&I. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to tell you about an exhibitor I visited at the annual dealers show this past February.

I can’t take full credit, as it was a colleague of mine who told me about the company. Having already visited the company, he handed me a tri-fold pamphlet. In it were claims about a new revolutionary process that could cut 45 to 60 minutes out of the sales and F&I process. It also promised to reduce errors, free up salespeople and improve CSI. The name on the brochure was Pro-Pack. The company’s motto: “Takes the Work Out of Paperwork.”

“Great,” was my first thought. I take a five-day business trip to see the latest in cutting-edge solutions and here I am visiting a company that specializes in professional paperwork solutions. Then it hit me. Unless you’re working in an F&I office in Australia, which only requires a buyer’s order and title, then paperwork is probably the root of all problems. “Only a dealer would know that,” I thought. And boy was I right.

 

The man behind Pro-Pack is Jim Hayden, president of Champion Chevrolet Buick Pontiac GMC in Franklin, Va. His new company was making its industry debut at the show. He started his pitch with an anecdote about how much sales guys and gals love jotting down those vehicle identification numbers (VIN) six or seven times to complete the required paperwork. Then he hit me with how much F&I guys and gals love finding out when it’s too late that one of those 17 identifying letters and numbers was wrongly entered. And that’s what Pro-Pack aims to eliminate: errors and missing paperwork. An F&I manager’s dream come true, right?

 

“My concern as a dealer is funding,” said Hayden. “With Pro-Pack, everything is in the deal ... the stip sheets, the reference sheets. And when we submit a deal pack, we know we’re going to get funded right away.”

The Pro-Pack system starts with a sales worksheet, which the salesperson uses to collect the customer’s non-public information (i.e., Social Security Number). Also collected is the vehicle information. There are also lines for trade-in information, as well as the customer’s preferred financing and monthly payment.

The revolutionary part happens once the collected information is entered into the dealer management system: a single packet of forms containing the buyer’s order, used-car appraisal, pay-off quotation, we-owe form, customer incentive sheet, privacy notice, and the deal checklist is compiled. Imagine that, all that paperwork completed by the time the customer gets back to the sales tower. The real trick to Pro-Pack is the top half of the multi-form packet, which carbon copies the basic deal information onto each required sheet. The price: $2.97 per form.

“Me and my general manager came up with this back in 2006,” said Hayden. “At the time, everybody was talking about menu selling in service and menu selling in F&I. But the one thing we didn’t look at as an industry was why it took so long to get into the F&I office. Well, it’s all that paperwork.”

Hayden said Pro-Pack, which works with ADP, Reynolds and Arkona, can also be customized to meet individual state requirements. This is great news for dealers in California, which requires almost 37 pages of paperwork. The bad news is it’ll take three Pro-Packs to get it done.

 

“Everybody keeps talking about how we’re going paperless,” said Hayden. “But guess what, you still need paperwork to work that deal. Even the most futuristic dealers out there still need a piece of paper to print everything out.”

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