Service technicians are always in demand, especially master technicians. There’s just so much required of them. They need to know the ins and outs of today’s modern vehicles, and manufacturers insist on them being certified — a cost most dealerships subsidize.
Vehicle OEMs also insist that repairs be fixed the first time, and they typically tie dealer incentives to how customers score the service department on their satisfaction surveys. Get too many bad surveys and those financial penalties start adding up pretty quickly.
"Dealers, I know it’s expensive to send your F&I team out for training, especially when travel is required. But the break and the opportunity to learn from other F&I pros, and to soak up the knowledge of multiple top trainers on a wide variety of topics is just too big an opportunity to pass up. Heck, all it takes one little idea to move the needle in a big way, to the point where the cost to send your team will be more than recouped."
According to Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the typical technician is about 42 years of age and has spent roughly $35,000 on tools. They have earned four certifications in various areas of auto repair. The average study time per month to earn those certifications is more than eight hours. On top of that, they must be computer-literate.
Vehicle OEMs also have their own specific demands. In fact, they have their own hourly job times that often differ from ASE and other labor guides. Considering all that, it’s easy to see why auto techs are in such high demand.
And to hammer home what’s at stake, the National Automobile Dealers Association reported that dealership customers spent $18.9 billion in the service department in 2016. Costs related to warranty work added another $9.6 billion, bringing total service and parts sales to just over $49 billion that year.
So where am I going with all this? Well, for starters, it’s a reminder of just how expensive it is to hire and train people. Second, as important as certified techs are to the success of a dealership, there are other departments that are just as critical. This brings me to my main point.
See, I’ve spent the last 28 years of my industry career in the F&I office watching the profession evolve and emerge as one of the great bastions of dealer profitability. In fact, most dealers rely on F&I profits to stay in the black. This is due to obvious reasons, including shrinking front-end margins due to manufacturers slashing MSRPs and the pricing transparency car buyers now enjoy thanks to the internet.
Now, at about this time every year, <ital>F&I and Showroom<ital> magazine stages is annual Industry Summit, where F&I pros can learn about new techniques, the latest trends, and newest regulatory challenges. Delivering all the goods is a list of the industry’s top trainers, compliance experts and dealer consultants. Mixed in are some of the best F&I producers in the business.
Yeah, I know your F&I product provider has someone visiting your store every month. And a good one does bring the goods. But most of these reps are responsible for large territories, which means their time is constrained. This is where Industry Summit fills the void.
Dealers, I know it’s expensive to send your F&I team out for training, especially when travel is required. But the break and the opportunity to learn from other F&I pros, and to soak up the knowledge of multiple top trainers on a wide variety of topics is just too big an opportunity to pass up. Heck, all it takes one little idea to move the needle in a big way, to the point where the cost to send your team will be more than recouped.
I’ve been attending the conference for more than a decade and have never once returned without something that made a difference. Maybe it’s because I’m an old dog and it takes me a long time to learn, but I can list plenty of seasoned pros who look forward to Industry Summit every year just as much as I do.
All I’m asking you to do is consider how much money is made in that little 12-foot by 12-foot cubicle your F&I manager is sitting in, and how little you have invested in that role. I mean, we’re talking a few thousand dollars in computers, furniture, paint and carpet. The return is pretty high, isn’t it?
Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: There’s more to be had. Think about how much more efficient your techs are after they return from offsite training or when the mobile tool van comes a-calling. That training and those tools make your service team more efficient. They also provide a positive boost in attitude. And I don’t need to tell you how important attitude is in the workplace.
You really can’t afford not to up your F&I game. So pick up the phone, make your reservations and watch those back-end numbers climb. Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]