A Changing F&I Office for A Changed World
We all know what the world was like before March 2020 and there have been no shortage of articles talking about how COVID has since impacted the F&I space (heck…we’ve written most of them here!).
Dealers who had to shut down early on have enjoyed record PVR across the country even through supply chain issues and as of late, soaring interest rates. The spike in revenue has been helpful to the market rebounding for sure.
But has the pandemic changed the F&I experience enough that it is priming itself for a fresh take, a new vibe, a better overall process? Maybe this industry-disrupting, once-in-a-generation crisis has been the catalyst for a reimagining of what it means to be a ‘rockstar’ F&I manager.
Success & Change Go Hand-in-Hand
As COVID has changed many things about our everyday lives from how we shop to whether or not we work from home or in the office, how an F&I manager goes about their duties has changed, too. Why? Because your buyer has changed.
Car buyers have become used to a new level of transparency in their F&I experience and the car buying experience as a whole. Throughout late ‘20 and all of ‘21, buyers were going online to research everything to be better prepared for the financing and product conversations. They did research at home before ever coming into the dealership. They were having cars delivered to them without ever having to walk into the box.
It was a touchless process for the first time EVER.
With that change should come a fresh look at F&I in a post-COVID market. To continue being successful at the rate many are enjoying now, it may be time to commit to not going back to old habits and practices that did little other than to perpetuate old stereotypes .
A fresh approach to F&I should be an easy one. Here are some tips to help rethink your F&I role and help your department step firmly into a next-level experience that can only mean more profit and higher CSI for the long term…
- Image is everything - Project the right image from the start. Professional, yet dialed into the vibe of the dealership. F&I has a huge responsibility in carrying a large chunk of monthly revenue…managers should present themselves as the critically important staff that they are. Even in a post-pandemic world, your buyers still expect to see staff well put together even if it’s more of a business casual tone. Don’t sleep on that first impression.
- Don’t Waste Time - Today’s buyer is coming into your office paying more than they ever have for a car and with that frustration, don’t waste their time and make things worse. Bring them in quickly and be prepared with efficient menu presentations and finance options. CSI always goes up when buyers feel that their time was respected and F&I moved the deal along smoothly.
- Introductions Matter - Buyers may want a fast experience but that doesn’t mean they don’t want a proper and EARLY introduction to the F&I staff. Don’t hide in the office and wait. If there is a few minutes available to walk out to the sales desk and introduce yourself, do it. Those small touches are so important to establishing a rapport that helps the buyer trust you and hopefully buy from you.
- Be Approachable - Before COVID, most car buyers may not have thought about reaching out to F&I post-sale and if they did, they would try to call or stop by. Now they may be looking to reach out sooner and through other channels like emailing, Zoom, or through live chats if your store has this available. Make it easy for buyers to ask questions before or after the delivery.
- It’s About Them, Not You - As the buyer's journey to finding their car has changed over the last couple of years, so should F&I’s focus on tailoring the products to exactly what they need and not always what’s best for individual income. With higher prices and higher interest rates, buyers will be looking at their investment differently. Tailor your presentation to what is best for them and the money will follow for your staff.
- Consistency is Key - Consistency in process, consistency in presentation…it’s more important now in a buying environment where customer expectations have shifted so greatly. All staff working together to make the buying experience great across the board for every buyer whether they are buying a less expensive car with good credit or a high ticket truck with challenged credit. Everyone gets the best of the staff no matter the deal.
- Empathy Helps - You would be hard pressed to find someone in your own circle of influence that hasn’t been affected in some way by the events of the last two+ years. Whether it’s losing a loved one or losing their job during the shutdown, every buyer comes into the F&I office with a story that may or may not impact the sale.
Approach every deal with empathy…you never know what story lies behind it and how it could help you be more effective selling products that matter or finding the perfect financing to help someone out of a bind.The isolation of COVID has many among us looking for those basic levels of connection again and this is a chance for your F&I staff to shine.
Speaking of fresh perspectives, reach out to us here at truWarranty for a look at how we are helping dealers transform their F&I department and bust all the old stereotypes, one buyer at a time.
F&I managers have one of the hardest, if not THE hardest, job in today’s dealership. Ask anyone who has ever been in ‘the box’ what the one word is that can describe their job and they will likely say ‘pressure.
Your buyer's identity can be stolen from mishandling of documents during the course of a deal. Dealerships can also fall victim to one of the most common forms of fraud, fake identification scams.