We often hear someone say about a standard procedure, “You know the drill.” Unfortunately, in the finance office, knowing the drill often means perpetuating the bad practices that turn off customers and cost untold thousands in lost product sales and repeat business.

Entrepreneur magazine touched on this in a recent article, “Stop Losing Money and Focus on Customer Service.” The author lists five customer service “leaks” that lead to customer dissatisfaction. I noticed that the first letters of each of these points — deception, rudeness, incompetence, inflexibility and lateness — create an acronym I’m calling D.R.I.I.L.

Quoting data from Accenture, American Express and others, the article notes that 78% of consumers would quit a business over deception. Sixty-five percent would quit if put on hold for a long time. Those are deadly numbers.

You invest tens of thousands of dollars a month in technologies to help service customers faster, better and more conveniently. The value of technology, specifically a menu system, is that it helps promote integrity by requiring that F&I staff present “every product to every customer every time.”

Muting Technology’s Effectiveness
In fact, the menu exists because of the many compliance regulations governing F&I. These tools provide transparency and are designed to eliminate deception. It can also provide the necessary structure to improve presentations while incorporating appropriate options and choices for the customer. Furthermore, accountability and results management are all driven and managed from within an F&I process and menu system. At the very least, the menu streamlines processes and eliminates wasted effort and time.

Yet, wherever D.R.I.I.L. is permitted to exist, technology’s value is lessened. And keep in mind that dissatisfied consumers tell twice as many other consumers about their experience than satisfied customers do about their good experiences.

This D.R.I.I.L. has to stop! To help draw out how dangerous D.R.I.I.L. behaviors and attitudes are to the dealership, I’ve added my own thoughts and observations below to the elements identified in Entrepreneur’s article.

Deception: Deception in advertising still demands close scrutiny. Numerous federal and state entities monitor our practices and processes and hold us accountable. But this kind of “direct” deception isn’t the most common type that causes customers to quit us. They choose to leave a business for much more subtle tones of deception. Not delivering on what was promised, promoting an idea or product that offers little or no value or benefit, and run-of-the-mill fabrication, blaming and covering up are what drive car buyers away. That’s why it’s critical that you seek out people for whom any deception goes against their core being.

Rudeness: We’re all guilty of this from time to time. Remind staff to think before they speak and to weigh the sound and impact of their words, tone and speaking energy. Bottom line, know thyself. Does frustration, pressure and impatience squeak out as abrupt, discourteous or sarcastic behavior? Let’s remember who pays the bills and recognize staffers who exhibit an “I work for you, Mr. Customer” attitude.

Incompetence: Some individuals are simply in the wrong job. That’s management’s fault. When an F&I associate struggles with a menu or presentation, it’s usually because he or she has not been trained or hasn’t practiced. And that causes them to fumble, miscalculate, and create misfortune, especially for customers who simply want to be on their way in their new vehicle. Entrepreneur notes that incompetence accounts for 73% of all customer dissatisfaction.

Inflexibility: I once stopped for a doughnut at a shop that was running a two-for-one offer. I wasn’t that hungry, but the clerk insisted I buy two. Rather than argue, I dropped one in the trash bin outside. More recently, I requested that a utility provider make an address change. My rep sent me an email asking me to contact another department. The way that request was handled still bothers me to this day. So be flexible and don’t be afraid to break the rules, stretch or go the extra mile for your customers. In other words, find every reason to say “Yes” to customers.

Lateness: Ever mystery call your dealership? Customers hate that no one answers their call right away, if at all. Remember, keeping customers on hold is why 65% of them say they’re dissatisfied with a business. Lateness includes tardiness for meetings, failure to return phone calls or emails promptly, or simply a lack of urgency that wastes time.

Sometimes I wonder if lateness is a mast for laziness. The associate who chooses to continue browsing a newspaper when an “up” appears or an F&I manager who is “too busy” to assemble proper product presentation materials not only wastes everyone’s time, they risk losing the sale. Take such offenders aside and remind them — with enthusiasm — what their top priority should be.

I could write more, but you know the drill. First, look in the mirror before you look around. This D.R.I.I.L. is one drill you need to be rid of ASAP. Kill it in your F&I department before it kills your profitability.

Jim Maxim Jr. is president of MaximTrak Technologies. Email him at [email protected].