JAMIE LaREAU

In F&I, man beats machine every time

Automotive News | June 19, 2013 - 12:01 am EST

Retail auto sales are built on human relationships.

Whether the rapport is between the salesperson and customer or between the F&I manager and customer, the relationship is built on human-to-human interaction with trust as its foundation.

And that's something no piece of technology or machinery can ever match.

That's why it's interesting that so many F&I managers get worried that technology might replace them in their jobs one day.

Last week, during an Automotive News F&I Week webinar titled "F&I and Millennials," a spirited debate arose during the question-and-answer period.

(For a replay of this and all F&I Week sessions, go to www.fandiweek.com.)

The discussion focused on using tablets when selling to younger, tech-savvy customers. The tablets would allow those customers to do most of their interaction with technology to select the F&I products that interest them, some on the panel said.

One panelist was joining the webinar during a pause in a training session for a roomful of F&I managers, all of whom were listening in to the session. One of those managers, the panelist reported, had an immediate, gut-level response to the idea of letting a tablet pitch F&I products to customers:

"Did I just turn into a monkey?" he asked.

The manager's concern, apparently echoed by others in the room, was that the tablets might eventually eliminate their jobs.

The panelists collectively reassured the managers that customers still want human interaction no matter how advanced technology gets.

This is not the first time F&I managers have gotten their hackles up over the suggestion of more technology in the F&I office. My colleagues report covering conferences where the issue of being replaced by a machine has often ensued following a tablet/technology presentation.

It stands to reason we could all be replaced by machines some day.

But relax.

When you're dealing with an emotional purchase such as buying a car and you're selling an intangible product such as F&I, the need for a live human to look you in the eye and justify that purchase is something that will never and can never be replaced.

Jamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive News.Jamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive News.

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