What’s with all the F&I hate lately? If regulators aren’t attempting to alter the way we operate, supposed consumer experts are telling us our process is long overdue for an overhaul. It’s the latter that gets me boiling, because, for whatever reason, they believe a process that, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, accounts for 40% of the average dealership’s net operating income isn’t good enough.
Think about that stat for a second: 40 cents of every dollar the average dealer deposits is earned in a 10-foot-by-10-foot office equipped with computer and furniture that costs no more than a few thousand dollars. Folks, technology doesn’t sell F&I products. And based on what I’ve heard and seen, neither does this hybrid F&I manager baloney we keep hearing about.
Listen, I’m not opposed to research and development of new ideas, but there are some things that have already been perfected with little room for improvement. And I believe the F&I process is one such thing. Yes, I’ve read the studies that point to how much customers dislike the F&I process, but I contend the problem has to do more with the time customers wait to get into F&I than the process.
If your F&I managers are expected to deliver north of 75 units per month, how can you expect there not to be a problem? There’s simply too much that needs to happen on the back side of a deal for even the most skilled F&I manager to do his or her job effectively while managing good CSI.
So what’s the answer? It’s simple. We F&I managers need to step up our game in customer satisfaction, product sales and productivity — to the point that our dealers will scoff at some of this new-age F&I talk. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your push:
- Finance Reserve: No matter how hard regulators try and consumer groups cry, dealer participation isn’t going away. However, finance reserve shouldn’t be a producer’s main focus.
- F&I Products: Product sales is where your focus needs to be. And to be great at it, you need to know what you’re selling. So be sure to read those product enrollment forms you ask your customers to sign, because you need to know what your products cover and don’t cover.
You also need to consider whether the products you offer are relevant to your market and whether you have too many products on your menu. Hey, too many products could be slowing down your presentation. Not enough products may mean you’re missing an opportunity to fill your customers’ needs.
- Training: Old dogs can and should learn new tricks, so do yourself and your dealer a favor by investing time in bettering yourself professionally in 2016. Enroll in a seminar, training class or attend a conference.
- Compliance: Are you up to date on the latest rules and regulations governing F&I? Do you dedicate time to staying updated? Hudson Cook LLP’s CARLAW is an excellent resource with which to start.
- Get Social: There are plenty of social media groups dedicated to F&I managers, so seek them out. One such group is the Ethical F&I Managers Facebook group I started some years ago. There are close to 5,000 F&I managers just waiting to help you out in a pinch.
- Get Organized: Take a hard look at your office and get rid of the clutter, including those product brochures and placemats on your desk, as well as those tacky notices you have pinned to your wall.
- Process, Process, Process: It’s time to take a good, hard look at your process. Can it be improved? What about your presentation or communication skills?
- Time Is Money: While my personal goal is to get customers in and out of my office in about 30 minutes, I believe the process should take as long as it should. What’s your goal in terms of process time? More importantly, how long do your customers wait once they’ve committed to a purchase in sales. Are you ready to do business once they arrive?
We need to stop this overhauling-F&I talk and remind our dealers and management teams that we are the single most important income-producing individuals in the store. And the only way we’re going to do that is by continuing to improve what we do and how we do it. Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]