The F&I Report this year published tips from industry experts about how dealership managers can stay attuned to compliance standards, customer expectations and remain profitable. Here's a sampling of some of our best tips this year and the month in which each appeared.
Prioritize accuracy the first time (January)
Be so precise that you have to touch a deal only once in the F&I office, says John Tabar, director of training for United Development Systems. "Make sure that everything you have is accurate," Tabar says. "You don't have time to touch a deal twice, three times, and if you're spending time cleaning up things you should have taken care of earlier, that's a sign of a disorganized manager."
Keep pricing in check to build trust (February)
Dealerships should keep F&I product pricing consistent to maintain their customers' trust, said dealership consultant Tony Giorgione. "If you keep the price reasonable, you will continue to sell," he said. "Sales depend on the velocity of finance, not going for a big hit with one or two people."
Dividing the F&I menu (March)
Break the F&I menu into three categories of coverage, suggests F&I trainer Gerry Gould: mechanical coverage, which includes a service contract, key replacement, tire and wheel and maintenance; appearance coverage, which includes paint and fabric and paintless dent repair; and financial coverage, which includes guaranteed asset protection and theft products. Gould said, "Categorizing the products on the menu/option disclosure makes for a much smoother presentation and flow."
Discuss financing early (April)
Especially as interest rates rise, finance managers should get involved in the transaction earlier, said Tony Dupaquier, director of The Academy, an F&I training company. "Too many business managers wait for the deal to be completely done before they're involved in the deal," he said. "If the business manager will go out and go talk to them … it increases the likelihood of capturing the financing in-house."
Prepare for regulatory shifts (May)
Dealers and lenders should stay ahead of potential regulatory changes by consulting resources from industry groups, suggests Cheryl Miller, senior vice president and general manager for Dealertrack F&I and Titling Solutions. "The potential emergence of state-by-state consumer financial protection regulations starting with California could add a new layer of complexity to today's compliance landscape, requiring more awareness on the part of dealers and lenders than ever," she said.
Look beyond the resume (June)
Look beyond the resume when hiring F&I managers; consider candidates' potential for growth, advises Raheem Travis, customer financial services development manager of AutoNation's western region market. Prospective employees should demonstrate consistent F&I performance, but they should also be receptive to additional training and guidance. "As long as someone has the ability and they're coachable, really strong teams can be built," Travis says.
Always build rapport (July)
Prioritize the customer relationship, even if doing so takes more time, said Jason Hash, trainer at EFG Cos. Building rapport is essential to the F&I transaction, he said. So don't drop the greeting and rapport-building just to save time.
Don't be shy (August)
Don't be shy about pitching every F&I product, every time, advises Tom Wagner, finance director at LaFontaine Buick-GMC in Highland, Mich. Failing to do that deprives customers of the opportunity to purchase those protections. "You never know what's happened to them, what's going through their mind," Wagner said. "There are going to be people that just say yes to your first pass because they've had experiences in the past."
Flip the script (September)
Flip the script when customers object to a product pitch, advises Jimmy Atkinson, CEO of F&I product and training company AUL Corp. It's not always easy for customers to understand the value of a service contract. Break it down in the simplest way possible — show them just how much a small repair can cost. "In the end, they'll appreciate the honesty and the added savings every time they visit the mechanic," Atkinson said.
Web design for F&I (October)
Design the F&I page on a dealership website as if every single customer will view it, advises Paul McCarthy, vice president of national sales at F&I product company AUL Corp. You don't want a site that caters to certain consumers, such as the young, who you figure will be your typical online visitor. "Let's assume 100 percent of the people are shopping on the Internet," he says.
Listen before pitching (November)
Take cues from the customer before reciting a script. Joe Opolski, pre-owned finance manager at Roy O'Brien Ford in St. Clair Shores, Mich., advises F&I managers to pay attention to what customers are really saying to make sure their argument is as persuasive as possible. "Sometimes we use the wrong close at the wrong time. Or maybe the right one at the wrong time," Opolski said. "Sometimes we're in a hurry to use the latest greatest tool or close, but we should take a breath and get involved in a dialogue with our customers."
Call after repos (December)
After a vehicle is repossessed, call the customer to find out why, advises G.P. Anderson, finance manager at Thielen Motors in Park Rapids, Minn. It recently happened to customers of Anderson after a job loss. The couple is now coming back to finance a new vehicle and rebuild their credit. "Show empathy and your ability to understand and share the feelings of another," Anderson said. "They know I have their back."