In the ongoing debate over paper vs. electronic menus, Mylas Copeland has chosen a side. Eight months ago, he replaced his dealership’s outdated paper menu with an electronic version.
Copeland serves as the general manager of Green Toyota Scion Volkswagen Audi in Springfield, Ill. The dealerships are part of the Green Family Stores, which operates 10 rooftops in Illinois and Iowa. He says he wanted a system that would make his dealership’s F&I process more professional and engaging for customers. He found those qualities in Reynolds and Reynolds’ docuPAD.
The docuPAD is a part of Reynolds’ Retail Management System and is a combination of software and hardware. The F&I solution includes a customizable, interactive menu presentation and document-processing system that plugs into Reynolds’ dealership management system. The hardware includes a 45-inch tabletop display screen with space-age glass and integrated speakers that can be set up on any desk or flat surface.
Copeland discovered the system last year, during one of the technology maker’s product shows for dealers. The 18-year industry veteran says docuPAD appeals to tech-savvy consumers and captures their interest in the F&I office.
“Customers usually walk into an F&I office and their guard comes up. Now, when they walk in, it’s a completely different experience. It’s cutting edge,” Copeland says. “When you look at what most people are using now — iPads, tablets, iPhones — this is a continuation of that. It’s the same type of software that customers are using every day.”
Copeland says it took less than a year for the docuPAD to positively affect F&I product sales. Customer satisfaction index (CSI) scores also are up at his operation, which sells a monthly average of 187 to 200 new and used vehicles. In addition to Copeland’s store, five other Springfield-located Green Family dealerships currently use the docuPAD.
Jon Strawsburg, vice president of product planning at Reynolds and Reynolds, says the size of the dealership or dealer group doesn’t matter when it comes to the docuPAD. What does matter is a dealer’s attitude about how customers should be treated. “We certainly have seen dealerships that are more progressive in working through processes to make sure customers are happy with what they buy and how they’re serviced,” he says. “Those [dealerships] naturally lean toward docuPAD.”
A New Way
Finding a more professional and interactive F&I presentation tool was the main motivation behind bringing in the docuPAD, but Copeland says he also wanted to take advantage of the monitoring tools today’s electronic menus offer. It’s not that he didn’t trust his producers; he just believes that today’s regulatory environment demands the added scrutiny.
“We had to rely upon the finance managers to give all of the products to all of the customers all of the time,” he says. “It was old school. It was paper-based. The F&I managers conducted interviews on the showroom floor.”
After the interview, F&I managers would offer whichever F&I products they thought were appropriate for each customer. This approach allowed the F&I managers to present products they thought met their customers’ needs, but Copeland says he had no way of knowing whether all products were presented consistently.
The docuPAD definitely fit the bill, but Copeland knew that replacing his dealership’s paper menu would drastically alter its existing F&I process. He says he expected some initial resistance from his staff, and knew going in that a “tool is only as good as the people behind it.”
But Copeland’s F&I managers didn’t disappoint, enduring three days of training from Reynolds and Reynolds. They learned the basics of how to navigate a menu presentation, capture electronic signatures and create a digital deal folder in the docuPAD. After that, his team took the initiative and familiarized themselves with the new system. “My team spent days role-playing and rehearsing with each other in order to become fluid with the docuPAD process,” Copeland says. “They would practice with each other, learning how to flip the screen and turn the angles.”
And the F&I team was rewarded for their willingness to use the docuPAD and overhaul their F&I process, Copeland notes. “It’s forced our team to slow down. They’re spending enough time in the box. Sometimes they’re not having the best of days, but everybody gets the presentation.”
After eight months of using docuPAD, the store’s average profit per retail unit jumped from an average of $900 per month to $1,200. Copeland says acceptance rates for vehicle service contracts, GAP and paint protection increased by 19, 15 and 8 percent, respectively. The product benefiting the most was tire and wheel, with the coverages acceptance rate rising from 16 to 40 percent — a 150 percent increase.
According to Strawsburg, it’s typical for dealers who use the docuPAD to see an improvement in F&I performance. But he believes customers’ reactions to the products they agree to purchase are even more telling of the system’s impact. “We see more of the decisions that get made by consumers during the F&I process stick. They feel like they made the right decision,” he says, referring to the typical drop in chargebacks users of the docuPAD experience.
The docuPAD was originally created and developed by COINdata, an automotive software company. Since 2008, Reynolds and Reynolds has maintained an ownership stake in the company, and it currently handles product development, sales, service and support for the docuPAD.
Last year, Reynolds and Reynolds redesigned the docuPAD’s physical components. The original docuPAD system featured a 32-inch display set atop a 3-inch platform that was built into a custom-made desk. Aside from the bigger display, the new version is no longer beholden to the desk. Reynolds also made some programming adjustments to improve the connection between the docuPAD and its Retail Management System.
“The redesign of the screen has made it more adaptable,” Strawsburg says. “You don’t have to redesign your office for it.”
Dealers also receive a scanner and color printer as part of the docuPAD system. Miscellaneous forms such as a customer’s pay stubs can be scanned and saved as part of a digital deal jacket. If needed, forms and documents can be printed in the same size and presented in a binder to customers. “It really changes customer perception and doesn’t seem clunky or unprofessional,” says Tim Yalich, product manager for Reynolds’ docuPAD.
Dealers also can customize the menu presentation so the menu, forms, contracts and lease information are displayed on the docuPAD’s screen. Written and audio disclosures also are available in multiple languages. “The system’s software guides the F&I manager so forms aren’t missed and signatures are captured where required,” Yalich notes.
The use of electronic forms also can help dealers reduce the amount of time spent printing forms. It’s a small detail, but Yalich says the time savings can go a long way in changing customer perception of the F&I process. It even helps to keep them engaged, he adds.
Jeff Sacks, a 30-year industry expert who runs his own consulting firm, Jeff Sacks & Associates, is a fan of the docuPAD. He says the combination of menu presentation and documentation processing sets it apart from other F&I systems because it meets the needs of customers without sacrificing what F&I managers need to be successful.
“[The docuPAD is] logical and consequential,” Sacks explains. “It offers more engagement in an area that’s traditionally about overcoming objections versus showing a product and asking if you want it.”
Copeland has taken advantage of the docuPAD’s engagement features, which include videos, infographics and illustrations dealers can use to introduce and explain products. He uses the video feature, loading his producers’ docuPADs with an introductory video of himself thanking customers for their business.
Copeland’s video also introduces customers to the F&I process. Producers, however, don’t use the video feature when working with customers. They do use graphs to explain a product to a customer, but Copeland says he wants his F&I managers doing the talking, not the docuPAD.
Reveal All, Tell All
F&I menus that offer reporting functions are not new. Several menu providers offer the ability for dealerships to track and monitor F&I producer activities. It brings accountability to the F&I office, but Strawsburg says there are other benefits as well. If a customer returns to the dealership complaining that he or she was not told about an F&I product he or she selected, the system could be used to prove that the product was properly disclosed.
“Every encounter with a consumer is tracked,” he says. “We know the sequence of events they go through, which products are presented and how they were presented.”
Reynolds doesn’t prescribe a process for using the system, either. Strawsburg says once the system is installed in the F&I office, dealers can set up a standard F&I presentation and process that all producers must follow. The reporting system then tracks producers to make sure each step is followed. Copeland says that ensures consistency and compliance, but he offers another reason why he favors that capability: training.
“We can look at monthly reports and know how much time [F&I managers] are taking to explain a specific item,” Copeland says, adding that a quick review of the reports allows his F&I team to make adjustments on the fly rather than waiting until the end of the month.
At last September’s F&I Conference, the industry debated the viability of presenting menus on tablet devices like the Apple iPad. But as the two-hour, two-session discussion raged on, it was apparent that at the heart of the issue is the F&I industry’s inability to tear itself away from paper menus.
“The paper menu ... doesn’t really have a lot of gloss to it,” Tom Wilson, a dealership development manager for American Financial and Automotive Services, said during the mobile menu debate. “But a lot of F&I managers, frankly, like that, because they don’t want it being the center of attention.”
Strawsburg didn’t take part in that session, and he doesn’t believe the debate over paper vs. electronic will end anytime soon. But he does believe the company’s docuPAD falls in line with the industry’s future in e-commerce. For now, he says the system will continue to appeal to operations like Green Family Stores, which simply want to streamline the F&I process while providing customers with the best shopping experience.
“Clearly the industry is moving toward an electronic way of doing business,” Strawsburg says. “Right now, [the docuPAD] doesn’t eliminate paper, but it eliminates the travel of paper to conduct business.”
That capability alone has worked to improve customer service and, as a result, CSI scores. More importantly, Copeland says the interactive F&I process has made customers more accepting of what’s on the menu.
“It’s enhanced the process. There’s no doubt about it,” Copeland notes. “What docuPAD has done for us is it has allowed us to be on point and accurate. It allows customers to see the process and understand it.”