Speed in the F&I office, while a priority, may not be dealerships’ No. 1 goal anymore.
A quick visit to the F&I office makes a difference, especially in pleasing those consumers who expect immediate gratification. But ease and transparency in the process seem to take precedent for retailers.
When I leased my car in September, the transaction from start to finish took about three hours. But that includes the hourlong lunch in between the time I chose a car and the time I signed the paperwork. The most arduous part of the experience was the phone call with my insurance company during lunch. Every person I worked with at the dealership was direct and accommodating and provided a comprehensive but understandable explanation of my options.
Customer satisfaction is at its highest in the first 90 minutes spent at a dealership, according to the results in a 2015 white paper published by Cox Automotive and AutoTrader. After the 90-minute mark, satisfaction slips. Even so, it seems like the goal of a high-speed F&I experience is falling to the way side. In Automotive News’ five trends to watch for in 2015, we listed among them speeding up the transaction. But in going back through the 2015 clips to see how that trend fared, there was no indication that companies made major sprints last year to shorten F&I times to under an hour. Instead, I noticed small, incremental hops to faster F&I because of wider adoption of digital menus and e-contracting.
No, the industry focus last year veered toward compliance, with industry conferences and panels dedicated to compliance, the CFPB’s actions against auto lenders and the launch of technology tools that help ensure that retail margins are fair.
Speed is still essential, and wider availability of digital F&I components and e-contracting often shortens the transaction time. In the ranking of dealership priorities, however, efficiency and compliance are taking the top spots.