Here’s the scenario: All three F&I managers just took new customers into their offices, with three more buyers on the sign-in sheet and a fourth just closed on a vehicle. How long will the fourth customer have to wait to get into the F&I office? 

The answer to this question depends on several factors: 

  • • How long does each F&I turn take?
  • • How long does each F&I manager take to “prepare” for their next customer?
  • • At what point does the customer start the F&I process? 

The F&I time delay is the total amount of time it takes for a customer to move from “Yes, I want to buy the vehicle” to accepting delivery. This time includes starting, engaging, and finishing the F&I process. 

Working as the F&I director for a large retail store that sold 800 units per month, I had to address the problem and figure out a way to solve it. Let’s take a closer look at the example above. On average, it takes the F&I manager one hour per F&I turn and 10 minutes to prepare for the next customer, which includes loading the information into the CRM and preparing the menu and the paperwork. At this rate, the fourth customer may have to wait two hours and 20 minutes before he or she is able to start the F&I process.

This type of wait is unacceptable. Let’s find a better way to handle this situation.

Utilizing an electronic interview for the F&I process allows the customer interview to start within approximately five minutes of the customer saying “Yes” to the car. Electronic interviews can be conducted on a dealership iPad or the customer’s smartphone.

These tools allow customers to view product demonstrations and explanations and self-select F&I protection programs prior to meeting with the F&I manager. We have already reduced the average time for an F&I turn from 60 minutes to 20 minutes simply by utilizing technology.

The F&I manager will then simply review the customer’s purchase information, confirm the optional products chosen, recommend one or two additional products if appropriate, and then electronically complete the deal utilizing digital signatures. Some business managers can even present customers with a flash drive containing all of their completed and digitally signed paperwork.

As an added benefit to the dealership, the F&I manager can electronically submit the product contracts to its provider and remit the retail installment contract or lease agreement to the finance source. A realistic time for a complete turn is 20 minutes, with no more than five minutes of preparation time.

In our hypothetical situation above, the customer has started his or her digital interview, electronic product presentation, and product selection process within five minutes of agreeing to buy. This process should take 20 minutes, on average, to complete. When the customer is finished, the sales consultant will take the tablet and start the delivery process of the customer’s new vehicle at his or her desk — also using a tablet for the vehicle review.

Approximately 20 to 25 minutes into the delivery process, the F&I manager will greet the customer at the sales consultant’s desk and escort him or her back to her office. The customer will spend no more than 20 additional minutes in the business office before being turned back to the sales consultant, who will complete the delivery process. 

By simply integrating technology into the sales and F&I process, the F&I time delay has gone from 140 minutes to 60. The fourth customer will be leaving the dealership far happier than the first three.

Having participated in this type of F&I process, both as a consultant and customer, I can testify that it is pleasant and profitable for the dealership and quick and painless for the customer.

Digital sales and F&I are the future. Staying on the cutting edge of technology makes our processes faster, more compliant, and more profitable, and benefits the customer and dealer alike.

Demetrios Lahiri is vice president of sales for American Financial & Automotive Services Inc. Email him at [email protected].