JM&A Group, one of the largest independent providers of finance and insurance products, is sharing findings from a multiyear pilot of virtual F&I sales to dealerships looking to adopt the best strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, which launched in September 2018, aimed to capture F&I sales from customers who want more control over the process without sitting in a dealership office.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak forced dealership closures and required social distancing, virtual F&I presentations were far from popular in the dealership world. JM&A's program was initially met with criticism in F&I social media circles.
Scott Gunnell, group vice president of business strategy and operational excellence at JM&A Group, said reception to the program is "leaps and bounds" higher than it had been before the coronavirus outbreak.
"Necessity breeds innovation," he said. "And we're at a point of necessity right now."
The pilot had three planned stages. In the first, JM&A associates used Skype to talk with dealership customers and complete transactions virtually while the traditional F&I manager handled customers in another room. JM&A employees sold the products and were involved in handling the final paperwork.
Phase two involved selling F&I products to customers outside the dealership through virtual presentations. The pilot ended before the third phase could be implemented because the market for this type of virtual transaction grew quickly, largely because of the pandemic.
JM&A said it will continue to support the program at the stores it worked with and at others that choose to adopt the program. In addition to best practices for virtual sales, JM&A is offering its virtual playbook with resources to scale virtual F&I processes.
"We believe that we are rightly positioned at this point in time to help dealers across the country maximize this necessity," Gunnell said.