This month’s question comes via email from Ed in Phoenix, home of the Phoenix Financial Center. Built in 1964 by IBM, it was designed to look like a computer punch card, which I’m sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Ed writes: “Our dealer is considering installing desktop and touchscreen menus in all the F&I offices. He thinks it will speed up the F&I process and increase profits. They are impressive, but they’re also not cheap. And the cost will be deducted each month from our F&I income. What do you think? Are they worth it?”
Ed, the good news here is that your dealer is involving the entire F&I team in this decision. That shows he values your input, wants to hear your thoughts, and is willing to invest a substantial amount of money to ensure you have the tools you need to do your job. The bad news is your dealer feels that the current F&I process is taking too long. He also feels like F&I performance and profits need to improve.
"Most customers couldn’t care less how F&I products are offered. While one generation may prefer viewing a menu on a computer screen vs. a paper version, they certainly aren’t going to buy any F&I products because of a touchscreen menu."
There are numerous menu systems out there, each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses. Some are absolutely amazing; some are just plain awful. Full integration with your DMS eliminates the need for double entry of customer and deal information, which will definitely save time. However, DMS integration does add to the monthly cost, and some do it better and faster than others.
This is where a hands-on evaluation by the entire F&I team of multiple menu software systems is critical before your dealer makes a long-term commitment. All of you will be living with that menu software, and sharing in the monthly expense, for several years. While some menu systems are only a few hundred dollars a month per dealership, some can cost as much as $1,400 per month per F&I office.
So, before I answer your question, I have a few questions: What is the average time customers spend waiting to get into the F&I office? What is the average time spent by customers in the F&I office? Is it being tracked? Is it tracked by manager? Is there any correlation between that time and their CSI score? If so, is your menu software causing this delay, or is it the fact that customers are forced to wait until you have your menu created before you bring them back to the F&I office?
Typically, this is where customer satisfaction and F&I profits both suffer. If your menu software isn’t integrated with your DMS, doesn’t store default templates, and doesn’t allow you to easily create and review a menu with the customer in your office, then perhaps you do need a new menu system.
Menu software should expedite the F&I process, not prolong it. Unfortunately, in most cases, we find it’s the F&I managers who keep customers waiting, not because of their menu software, but because they like to get everything ready before they bring the customer back to their office.
So, in answer to your question, “Are they worth it?” Ed, I can tell you for a fact that the 25 top-performing dealer groups in F&I income are not all using the same menu system. Most customers couldn’t care less how F&I products are offered. While one generation may prefer viewing a menu on a computer screen vs. a paper version, they certainly aren’t going to buy any F&I products because of a touchscreen menu. A menu is merely a tool. Just as some mechanics prefer Craftsman tools while others prefer Snap-on, every F&I professional has a particular menu software they prefer.
F&I profits are not the result of, nor are they dependent upon, any particular menu. They’re the result of great processes, great training, and motivated F&I professionals who are focused on helping customers make an informed decision, have the knowledge and ability to help every customer see how a particular product will benefit them specifically, can answer their questions and concerns, and who always ensure the F&I process adds real value to the customer’s purchase experience.
If you have a question you would like answered or an objection you struggle with, send it to me. You’ll get it answered and receive a free YETI. Because it’s a beautiful day to help a customer or another F&I professional.
Ron Reahard is president of Reahard & Associates Inc., a training company providing F&I classes, workshops, in-dealership and online training. Got a question or objection for Ron? Use your mobile phone to record a brief video (shot landscape style!) of your question and upload it to go-reahard.com/ask-ron.