I recently visited a popular men’s shop for some new suits. I called the store ahead of time to make sure my favorite salesman was working that day. When I asked about his schedule, he said, “Well, I try to get out of here by six. What time can you be here?” Knowing how annoying it is when customers just show up without regard to posted store hours, I assured him I’d be along well before that.
I like dealing with my guy because his customer service is second to none. He chooses his words carefully and dotes upon his patrons. After decades in the clothing business, he’s mastered the art of reading customer body language and voice inflection, which is so vital.
Though I’m no advocate of stretching out that first payment to three months, it can help make a deal in certain situations — particularly when a customer is paying off another bill that could help them budget for the new one. This method can also help a customer who is just starting a new job.
When I arrived at the shop, my guy was helping other customers. So I patiently waited while resisting the help of other store clerks. As I waited, I perused the goods. Now I came in for the lesser-priced inventory, but I should’ve known better. I’m a difficult fit, and as with all things, you get what you pay for. Once my salesman said goodbye to his customers and headed my way, it wasn’t long before we gravitated over to the pricier side of the store.
His expertise quickly reminded me what poor service is like. I have shopped the same store brand in other towns and walked out scratching my head, wondering how some people can make a living knowing so little about what they do. His smooth style also reminds me about the finer things we can do in F&I, and how, with just a little forethought, we can help customers while increasing revenue and gross.
Here are six things that come to mind that can make a difference come month-end. I’m betting most of you are already doing them, but just in case, read along.
1. Just Three More Months: Adding an extra three months to a standard-term sales contract can make a world of difference to someone on a tight budget. It can also allow extra room for another product.
2. 30 vs. 90: Though I’m no advocate of stretching out that first payment to three months, it can help make a deal in certain situations — particularly when a customer is paying off another bill that could help them budget for the new one. This method can also help a customer who is just starting a new job.
3. Less Is More (Sometimes): We often get limited back-end allowances from the finance company. So why not consider a shorter term or fewer miles to help with those limited callbacks? And don’t assume the desk got all the cash down.
4. Basic PPM: Basic prepaid maintenance programs reimburse the service department for oil, filter, tire rotation, and vehicle inspection. Offering basic programs also allows you to include more products, because the turnkey programs are far more expensive. Shorter terms can also reduce costs.
5. Rate for Product: Most finance companies pay nice flats, so don’t be afraid to drop the rate and add a product or extend its term to accommodate the customer. If handled properly, this is a win for everyone.
6. Go for the Gold: Most service contract programs offer multiple options so they can be customized to the customer’s needs. They include higher deductibles, high-tech upgrades, or first-day rental car delete. Properly administered, they can make a big difference to the customer. So get out your product books and enrollment forms to familiarize yourself with these options to uncover new strategies.
The key here is to become intimately familiar with everything your department has to offer and incorporate that added knowledge to help the customer. When they sense your hard work is an attempt to help them, they will be far more receptive.
Listen, I’ve tried just about every high-pressure tactic in the book. And I have discovered the best path to customer acceptance is to be genuine and always have their best interest in mind.
There’s a big difference between wool suits and service contracts, especially considering the intangibility of the latter. Yet both require a knowledgeable pro to meet the customer’s needs. So provide that world-class service with the customer’s desires in mind. When this happens — coupled with the right fit of products tailored to each customer’s situation — the return will be realized again and again as they come back for more of the same.
Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].