F&I product and training company JM&A Group is piloting a program in which its employees sell F&I products via Skype to consumers in dealerships.
While eliminating the dealership F&I manager is a possible result of virtually selling JM&A's F&I products in dealerships, it's not the driving force behind the move by the F&I division of JM Family Enterprises, a company executive said.
Dealerships will become more efficient by having product providers handle F&I sales, said Scott Gunnell, vice president of field sales operations and strategy at JM&A Group. As part of the pilot, JM&A employees sell the products and are involved in handling the final paperwork. From there, the dealership takes care of the document processing.
"We've had more dealerships interested than not that have heard about this concept," Gunnell said. "They agree the consumer is demanding more control or ability over the process without dealership involvement. If [the] virtual element increases the throughput, it increases the gains."
The pilot has three phases.
In the first, JM&A employees sell products in two small dealership groups. Prep work and employee training began this quarter. JM&A declined to identify the dealership groups other than to say they were "in the Southeast and the Northeast." One group has seven stores and the other has four.
"We purposely picked smaller dealership groups that have multiple stores, but not too many stores, so we could start in one and expand," Gunnell said.
Customers will begin interacting with the JM&A employees on transactions via Skype within two weeks.
In a situation where customers are waiting to enter the F&I office and the F&I manager is occupied, one of the waiting customers will be directed into an office with a screen through which a JM&A employee -- who is in another office on the premises -- will handle as much of the transaction as possible.
"We want to understand the benefits: How many more deals can we potentially take? What's the time of transaction?" Gunnell said.
In the second phase, expected to be underway by early spring, the customer is sold F&I products while at home or at another location such as a Starbucks.
In the final phase, the project is expanded. JM&A will connect to dealerships from a call center, handling overflow in the F&I department and sending employees to deliver vehicles on a contracted basis.
If the project succeeds, the customer will have more options to communicate with the dealership without having to visit the store, Gunnell said. And the dealership can confidently offer a service that matches that provided to customers in the store.