LAS VEGAS -- Using technology to provide F&I product information educates consumers, but it can also benefit dealers.
Digital product introductions can provide dealerships with data on their customers’ F&I product interests. And that knowledge can help guide F&I managers’ product recommendations.
Still, managers should be wary of relying on technology too heavily, panelists said at the Industry Summit here last week sponsored by F&I Showroom and Auto Dealer Today.
Most consumers don’t know what happens in the F&I office, and they know little about the aftermarket products F&I managers pitch to them, said Brian Reed, CEO of product and technology provider F&I Express.
Less than half of 500 consumers surveyed by Cox Automotive unit MakeMyDeal could correctly identify a vehicle service contract or GAP. And only 14 percent said they knew which products they wanted before entering the dealership.
There should be online education “so that by the time that customer gets to the F&I office, they know what’s going to go on [instead of being] apprehensive about what they’re hearing,” Reed said.
Within the F&I office, managers should communicate with consumers by using technology, the way those consumers are used to being communicated with, added Jim Maxim, CEO of MaximTrak Technologies. Reed agreed. “Dealers who don’t move forward will be outside the customer consideration,” he said.
Embracing technology goes beyond adjusting to the preference of one group of buyers, such as Generation Y.
“It’s not just millennials changing the way we sell a product. It’s all of us,” said Carrie Profaizer, vice president of information technology at Protective Asset Protection. “We need to leverage the technology we have in our hands.”
Not driving blind
With data gathered through technology, “dealers are no longer driving blind. They can alter the overall consumer experience,” said Todd Mason, chief product and marketing officer at RouteOne, which provides auto financing systems to dealerships.
Some dealers show 60-second snapshot videos of available options while the customer is waiting to get into the F&I office, Maxim said. If consumers choose to watch a video, the business manager sees what they watched, how long they watched it and how many times they watched it, he said.
“When I go out and talk to that customer, now I know information about them, and my recommendations are going to be based on some intelligence,” Maxim said. “You can have a richer conversation in a quicker amount of time.”
Tech supports sales
Technology, such as a video or an interactive F&I product menu, is a helpful tool. But F&I managers still need to be trained on that technology and be able to sell without it, the panelists said.
“Trainers need to take initiative to update training techniques and sessions as technology develops,” Maxim said.
F&I managers sell products; technology doesn’t. It supports the sale.
Reed added: “These are tools to help the F&I manager, but they’re not tools to take away the job.”