“How long does it take for a sold customer to get into the F&I office?” That was the question a frustrated sales trainer posed in my Ethical F&I Managers Facebook group. I’ve written on this subject before, but his question offered a little twist.

See, his dealer client has an overscheduled F&I manager delivering what I believe is too many units. As a result, the store’s CSI scores were hurting and the dealer wanted a solution. The answer seemed obvious to me: Add a second producer.

I think we can all agree 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 application. Keep in mind that most customers begin their shopping process online, which can take hours, if not days or months. So the clock is ticking even before the customer enters the dealership.

We also need to keep in mind that customers’ clocks start to spin at light speed once they commit to buy. In their minds, they’ve already passed through the most difficult part of the process when they enter the F&I office. But as we all know, the F&I office is where the real work begins.

In a perfect world, it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for an F&I manager to load the deal and complete all the necessary compliance checks before they’re ready for the customer. By my count, that puts the sales and F&I process at two hours and 20 minutes. So far, so good, right?

Well, 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 blamed the extra time it takes salespeople to demonstrate all that fancy new in-vehicle technology during the post-F&I delivery.

If we agree that time is of the essence, let’s reconsider the trainer’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 to the F&I office. After an initial deal analysis, examination of credit as well as OFAC and identity checks, the F&I manager should walk into the showroom to greet the customer and set realistic expectations as to how long everything will take. 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, this should take around 15 to 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, especially when handling nearprime and subprime deals. There are also situations where a deal involving a good-credit customer doesn’t fit the finance source’s loan-to-value limits. Unfortunately, the customer’s clock doesn’t stop ticking while we work our magic.

So what’s the answer? Well, eliminating mistakes and making sure nothing is missing in the deal before it reaches F&I is a good starting point. In fact, salespeople and desk managers should be responsible for that final review. And if that doesn’t work, grab a stopwatch and time just how long it takes for a customer to reach F&I once he or she commits to the deal.

While you’re at it, time how long it takes customers to actually enter the F&I office after the F&I manager’s initial meet-and-greet. You should also time how long it takes to get an approval for nonprime, subprime and prime deals. You’ll also need to measure how long it takes for a deal to be entered into the DMS, and how long it takes F&I producers to complete the various steps in their process.

With this information, you can begin formulating an action plan that should be shared with all departments, so everyone knows what to do if a deal is taking longer than normal.

Hey, a lot of money and resources are invested in other departments. Why shouldn’t that be the case for F&I? According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, F&I profits represent more than 40% of the dealership’s net profit. So doesn’t it make sense that we do all we can to fine-tune the process and the people who drive it? Good luck and keep closing.

Marv Eleazer is the finance lead at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]

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Marv Eleazer
Marv Eleazer

Marv Eleazer

Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at fi-magazine.com.

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Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at fi-magazine.com.

View Bio
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