How to nudge customers off the phone

Worried your Bluetooth headset-wearing customer is tuning out your F&I menu presentation?

Here’s one way you might encourage him or her to unplug: Do it first.

That’s what Joe Opolski, pre-owned vehicle business manager at Roy O’Brien Ford in Saint Clair Shores, Mich., does.

“I’ll grab my cellphone and sort of make a show of it and tell them: ‘We are going to go over some options and forms that are going to require your attention and your input. I’m going to turn off my phone so there are no interruptions. I invite you to do the same,’” Opolski said.

Does it work? “They don’t always turn it off,” he said. “But they never seem to have an urge to answer it if it rings after I’ve said that.”

Watch out for phony pay stubs

It’s a bad idea to rely too heavily on pay stubs alone to verify a customer’s employment and income. And sometimes a follow-up phone call isn’t enough, either.

According to credit bureau Equifax, lenders routinely ask for proof of employment and income, especially for applicants with subprime credit.

But Equifax has found that individuals sometimes print phony pay stubs. It’s also possible to buy them from vendors that make them.

There are even vendors who for a fee will answer the phone at a call center and give an appropriate response when a creditor calls to verify employment and income, said Craig Leabig, senior director of product management at Equifax Verification Services in St. Louis.

“It’s not hard to find, just Google-search ‘fake employment verification,’” he said.

Indeed, one such Web site offers phony employment verification starting at $65, with higher prices for more sophisticated services.

A phony-verification scheme was featured in an episode of the TV sitcom “Seinfeld.” The character George tells the unemployment office he’s close to getting a job with the fictitious Vandelay Industries. He asks Jerry to answer the phone “Vandelay Industries” if anyone calls to check up on him.

To get around such schemes, Leabig said, Equifax can check applicants against employment and income data gathered directly from thousands of employers.

Have a good F&I tip to share? Email Hannah Lutz at hlutz@crain.com



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