Why is the interview necessary?
Finance managers who do not do an interview and are just using a menu are just selling their own preferences. In many cases, that's a service contract — the one that costs the most and lasts the longest.
If a customer drives just 6,000 miles a year, you shouldn't try to push a 100,000 mile service contract. You'll get resistance from the customer.
Instead, you should be saying, "Based on the information you told me earlier, this would be the right service contract for you."
What impact does that have on the customer?
When the customer is not included in the process, the customer goes on strike. You can overwhelm them and they won't listen. Most of your informed customers will trust you more if you involve them in the process. They also buy more.
What happens if the finance manager skips the interview?
If you do not do the qualification process, you're just going through all the products.
For some time, though, the industry mantra has been to present 100 percent of the products 100 percent of the time.
We did some research last year and this year on the products that customers buy. At most, customers can sit through presentations on five or six products.
The dealerships want to sell service contracts, GAP, tire and wheel, and one or two appearance products. The other products are fringe products. They tend to have penetrations in the low single digits. They tend to detract.
So more isn't better?
More is not better. We know that from research.
How long should the interview be?
The whole process, including meeting and greeting and interview, should take five to eight minutes. It's not very long.
When should the F&I manager conduct the interview?
The F&I manager should get up out of the office and meet the people on the showroom floor. It's a nicer place for them to meet and doesn't chew up time in the F&I department. Once they go into the F&I office, that's when their mental clock starts ticking.
Are there tools to help get started?
They can use a customer information sheet. We ask the F&I manager to verify all the information and to also look for potential things the people may need.
Finance managers should also congratulate customers on their purchase and make friends with them.
What kind of questions should the interview include?
Things like "Will you be commuting?" "How far do you drive?" "Do you carry people with you?"
You have to know something about their driving habits. Otherwise, customers will wonder "Why are you offering me this?"
Any other must-ask questions?
There are other product questions, such as "Do you have an environmental services contract?" "Will you be servicing your vehicle with us?" "Did you have a service contract on your last vehicle?"
You can use their responses to fashion your presentation and to meet potential objections. If someone had a service contract before and says they never used it, you know what's coming your way.
You have also said it's important to verify customer information.
You have to make sure the vehicle is titled properly. The salesperson will take a copy of the driver's license whenever they take customers on a demo drive. They put whatever the address was on the driver's license down on the paperwork. The F&I manager does all the paperwork with the address.
Then people say, "That's my old address," and every paper has to be redone. You need to confirm the buyer, the name on the contract, address, and details of the deal.
Can you give an example of how the questions help tailor the presentation to the customer's needs?
If customers have a large balance and a long loan term, maybe they need GAP (guaranteed asset protection) coverage. If they have a short term and a lot of money down, the lender may not allow GAP. You should show customers things they like — not things you like.