High-tech dealership tools are great when they work. Mark Gibson, Internet sales director for Benny Boyd Auto Group in Lampasas, Texas, says F&I managers at his eight-store group get a lot of benefits from a new generation of driver’s license scanners, the result of a pilot program with eLEND Solutions in Mission Viejo, Calif.
The dealership group uses the scanners to detect fake IDs after the company lost four cars obtained through identity theft a couple of years ago. The new scanners also tie in with the dealership’s customer relationship management system.
The CRM system retains the contact information the scanners capture. So if a repeat customer walks in, the system automatically provides salespeople and F&I managers with purchase history, including whether the customer bought an extended service contract on his previous vehicle.
Despite the benefits, Gibson says, it’s tough to get all salespeople to use the scanners all the time. It’s also difficult to get all F&I managers to consistently use all the data the scanners make available.
Gibson discussed the benefits and practical difficulties of adopting new technology with Automotive News Special Correspondent Jim Henry by phone last week.
This isn’t your first time with scanners. What was wrong with the old ones?
A few years ago, we had around 25 to 27 ID scanners. They would work for three or four days and then go down. Or if the computer got turned off they would lose their memory. We had to call our old vendor. They had to log into our system from outside -- and dealerships really hate it when anybody logs in from outside -- and if they couldn’t fix it that way they’d say, “Let’s schedule a time in the next two or three weeks to repair your scanners.” That’s two or three weeks, when we needed them right away.
So they didn’t get used?
A salesperson will take the path of least resistance. The sales manager would ask, “Did you scan the driver’s license?” and the answer would be, “No, it’s not working.” They would be told, “Make sure you make a copy of the driver’s license and stick it in the file.” That might or might not happen. If the customer didn’t appear interested in buying that day, it definitely wasn’t going to happen. The end result would be that when the scanners got fixed, not one single person was going to use the scanner. It basically killed our process. It was real hard when we implemented our new scanners about a year and a half ago, because the old scanners kept going down.
How come you had so many identity thefts? Isn’t it unusual to deliver cars to someone, sight unseen?
We deliver all over the state of Texas. The way it works is we send the information to the bank. The bank approves and we send the contract, everything, to the customer. The customer signs, and we send everything to the bank. The bank funds the money and then we ship the car. We don’t ship the car until the deal is funded.
A lot of transactions are done this way. We sold a Chevy Avalanche four-wheel-drive to a guy in Alaska. Everything went down exactly like it was supposed to. He flew in from Alaska and drove the vehicle back.
Besides stopping a sale to a fake buyer, what does the F&I manager get out of using the scanners?
If I scan the driver’s license, it pops up in CRM. Now I can set it up the way I want to, but I have it set up so that a notification also goes to the finance manager, the sales manager, the receptionist, all at the same time: “We have a live person here, who’s going out on a test drive.” And right away we’ll know if you bought from me before.
The finance manager will know, “Oh yeah, that was Sam’s customer three years ago. Three years ago he bought a Jeep for $40,000. He’s looking at another $40,000 Jeep, and chances are, since he did it before, he can afford it.” Everybody is in the know.
And the F&I manager would know whether the customer was a lease or a loan and could set up the F&I menu ahead of time, say, while the customer was on the test drive, right?
In a perfect world, with the perfect finance manager, yes. I have to say, out of my eight locations I’ve got two that I know for sure would do that. They would say, “I see you bought an extended warranty three years ago.” The CRM system tells us how many times they came in for service. Maybe they had an air conditioner repair that was outside of manufacturer’s warranty.
The data is there, any time that vehicle was brought in for service and they spent $500, or $700, or whatever in service.
Does it also save time?
If I didn’t have this information, I would be in F&I trying to fact-find with the customer.
You can reach Jim Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org