A few weeks ago, I watched a beautiful 47-foot yacht return from a day on the water. She seemed to be having trouble docking. Having struggled at the helm myself, I knew what the captain was going through. It was dusk, and the marina dockhands were gone for the day, so I trotted over to lend a hand with the lines.
Just before I made it, I heard a familiar “scrunching” sound. He’d lost control and drifted sideways against an exposed finger pier, damaging the starboard side. I motioned for someone on board to toss me a line and, as I attempted to wrestle it in, I asked what was the problem.
"Now, those of you who’ve followed my columns over the years know how I feel about tech in F&I. The very things that ought to be speeding us along have so many capabilities that the software writers and hardware manufacturers just can’t resist tweaking their wares. I get it. But the rapid evolution and competition in the fintech segment also appears to be causing frequent system crashes."
“The joystick isn’t working right!” screamed the captain’s worried wife, referring to the controller that makes it easy to move a large boat around in tight quarters. The vessel was all over the place, so they decided to try for the fuel dock on the other side of the basin. I jogged over in time to see the yacht heading straight for the dock — in reverse — with the captain’s wife kneeling over the stern, ready to push back from the dock as they were about to collide.
I quickly warned her off just before the swim platform met the concrete underside of the pier. After some quick footwork and line handling, we brought the boat alongside the pier and tied her off. The captain’s wife wept and thanked me profusely as everyone aboard tried to get their bearings.
I don’t know if it was panic, confidence in the joystick, or lack of skill with the actual controls, but the captain caused thousands of dollars in damage to his boat. Smart people always have a backup plan when things go south. And the more we rely on technology to help, the more perilous and risky that reliance looms. That’s because tech is capable of handling a great deal. Even commercial airliners can virtually fly themselves.
Now, those of you who’ve followed my columns over the years know how I feel about tech in F&I. The very things that ought to be speeding us along have so many capabilities that the software writers and hardware manufacturers just can’t resist tweaking their wares. I get it. But the rapid evolution and competition in the fintech segment also appears to be causing frequent system crashes.
Think about the last time you were sitting with a customer, ready to print, and the server went down. Nothing worse than not being able to finish a deal because of internet or equipment failures. Add the advent of erating products, generating enrollment forms online and remittances on the fly using emenus, and things can get messy pretty fast.
You need a backup plan. Here are a few ideas:
1. Dot matrix backup: I still get a few chuckles from kids when I access my OKI for certain forms that aren’t printed off the laser printer. If you’ve ever been stopped cold by a depleted ink cartridge after hours, you know what I mean.
2. Hard copy backup: If you run out of printers, handwriting a contract can be your best option. You can always remit later. Load those forms into your DMS. If the provider website stalls, pull one out and print it off another printer.
3. Backup workstations: Even if you work in a small dealership, look into alternate workstations that you can quickly move to in case of emergency. Think the desk or sales manager’s offices. If their offices are not programmed to your needs, contact your DMS user support.
4. Dismount and dehorse: Our dealership once lost power when a driver slammed into a utility pole. We had several closed customers waiting for F&I when it happened. I actually had one in my office at the time. The natural fear is you may lose these customers, especially after the first hour. Spring into action. Put them into the new car overnight and ground their trade. Work with your accounting office to print up forms for which your dealer’s insurance company requires a signature.
Above all, remember to stay calm when problems arise. Take the emotion out of your decisionmaking and follow your backup plan.
Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].