I’m a car nut, and always have been. My favorites are the ’60s-era ragtops. I can binge-watch days of Barrett-Jackson auctions, dreaming of cruising in some of those classics. Drooling over their rarity is even more heightened when I read about how fast they were. And their zero-to-60 times still rival cars built today.
All this gets me thinking about the race to speed up the car-buying process. Surveys, polls and data tell us every second matters. If that’s true, how fast should we be going?
Personally, I believe it should take as long as it takes, because there are so many variables to each deal. On a perfect day, every deal makes its way to F&I well-structured and approved by the desk. F&I needs only to manage the compliance steps, make a quality menu presentation, and close on product. A pro can do this in about 30 to 45 minutes before handing the customer back to sales for delivery.
But what about those customers who aren’t so sure, need more information, or have a third baseman along for the ride? They may be accepting of the slowdown in the sales process, but they are much less tolerant after they’ve agreed to the price.
Then, finally, they get into the box. Whew, right? Well, take too much time helping customers understand why they should buy products and you risk CSI problems with them and those waiting. Go to fast and you chance the customer not being fully sold. The former trashes your scores and the latter often shows up the next morning ready to cancel.
We’ve seen reports from the National Automobile Dealers Association and J.D. Power indicating time spent in a dealership for people who have done their research starts at about two hours. It can stretch up to four hours if they walk in just to browse.
eLEND recently updated a report designed to measure the difference between dealers’ perceived transaction times and actual times. Analysts noted improvements over the last three years as evidence things are getting better. However, it’s important to move at the customer’s pace to ensure they grasp what’s going on and maximize satisfaction.
So, yeah, the heat is on once the customer reaches the F&I office, because that clock is ticking. That’s why it’s so vital for sales to work hand in hand with the business office to ensure a quick (and smooth) transition. Anything short of this is begging for a bad CSI score and an invitation for the customer to look elsewhere the next time.
If the bottleneck is the handoff time from sales to F&I, why not blend the two and eliminate the F&I office? Sounds like a great idea, and some are trying it. However, many dealers are losing precious dollars in the process. They may not be paying that big F&I salary any longer, but neither are they realizing the gains of having an otherwise studied pro on the job. Hey, you can’t ask a salesperson who just talked about how great the car was to suddenly start casting doubt on its reliability.
It really does come down to perception vs. reality, because it’s not the time a customer spends in your store nor those precious minutes spent waiting to get into F&I that drives them crazy. It’s how long it actually feels to them. Can we do anything about it? Sure, and it’s not so hard. As a team, we can alleviate those bottlenecks by working closer together and keeping the customer engaged.
Yeah, we all want to move things along at a good clip. But if this worries the salesperson, their nervous energy can be transferred to the customer. The trick is to remain calm and keep the customer rolling with enthusiasm and pre-delivery items until the handoff.
So why the rush? I mean, here we are helping customers buy the second most expensive purchase of their lives. And yet we feel pressure to handle it like a quick trip through the hardware aisle. Buying a car shouldn’t be so stressful. Congratulate and celebrate. I guarantee the needed time to transact will seem like moments, rather than hours, if we make it fun.
The magical rush of those 1960s muscle cars wasn’t just speed. It was the way they made you feel cruising down the boulevard, knowing all eyes were on you. That slow ride sped by. And that’s what we want to inject into the process when precious minutes count. Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]