One of the benefits of being the founder and administrator of a Facebook group for F&I pros is you can get a pretty good read on what life is like inside F&I offices around the country. Most of the posts are from well-meaning individuals looking to get better at their craft. They often swap closing techniques, offer words of encouragement to a slumping producer, and help a newbie with some game planning.
Every once in a while, however, there’s a post that reminds us that the business office can sometimes be a lonely and frustrating place.
You see, the job demands the best closers, yet F&I pros are often thought of as prima donnas by the rank and file. Yeah, I’ve been called one a few times in my career. The problem is we in the F&I office are often misunderstood, as there is no other department in the dealership that places such high demands on the people manning it.
"What all this tells me is culture and communication are critically important to a dealership organization. Hey, employees, especially your key people, need to know what the dealer expects in terms of customer service, and they need to be empowered to handle situations as they arise. Bottom line, when employees are treated well, they treat customers well."
Unfortunately, some dealers fail to appreciate the amount of compliance hoops we jump through to do our job, or the fact that many hard-working F&I pros stay late to take a delivery knowing they’ll get home well after their children go to bed. Nothing reflects these pressures more than the amount of turnover we see in the F&I office. As I see it, it’s the No. 1 problem in the industry, and an area I’d like to direct my comments toward for this special NADA convention issue.
What gets my blood boiling are these articles and blogs written by so-called experts who believe a business owner’s greatest assets are the customers their employees serve. Hey, last time I checked, an asset is something of possession that improves the net worth or value of an organization.
Sure, prospective customers are the target of all your marketing and advertising dollars, but getting them in the showroom doesn’t make them an asset. The assets are the people who deliver a great buying experience to those customers, ensure that their investment is protected, and keep their vehicles running. We drive repeat business, which is the name of the game in this business.
With all that in mind, I decided to poll members of my Ethical F&I Managers group. The question was simple: What motivates you to stay with your employer? About 130 members responded.
The two leading reasons for sticking around were “Dealer culture clearly communicated by my dealer” and “My dealer not changing the pay plan in response to good performance,” followed by “Dealer’s loyalty to employees and understanding the importance of family.” Other popular responses included “Dealer financially empowers managers to solve customer problems,” “The opportunity for promotions, “The honesty of my dealer,” and “Observing my dealer getting involved with his [or her] employees.”
What all this tells me is culture and communication are critically important to a dealership organization. Hey, employees, especially your key people, need to know what the dealer expects in terms of customer service, and they need to be empowered to handle situations as they arise. Bottom line, when employees are treated well, they treat customers well.
In the F&I space, well, the results speak for themselves. Hey, I realize goals and objectives change, but messing with a pay plan because the producer maxes it out is no way to treat the individuals who drive deal profitability and keep your store off the radars of regulators and plaintiff’s attorneys. In fact, I’ve had in-depth discussions with F&I managers for years on this topic, and they all agree that pay-plan tinkering is the No. 1 reason to jump ship.
Look, I get it. Unless you won your dealership in a poker game, you’ve had to work your butt off to build it. But without trusted employees manning the various posts, your store wouldn’t be where it is today. I’m no expert at running a store, but I have worked for a few great dealers in my time. They understood the importance of trust, communication and culture, and they operated under the belief that employees are king. So take care of your employees, empower them, give them room to grow, and the results will follow.
Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga.
Email him at [email protected].