Identifying Mistakes Quickly in F&I Helps Customers and Staff

The average car deal goes through several hands before it gets completed and the customer drives off the lot. Sales, desk managers, F&I, back office…everyone handles their own portion of the paperwork and is responsible for making sure everything is completed properly and within compliance standards. 

It’s a lot. But mistakes can be made and how they are handled, especially in F&I, can often  make or break a career at the dealership.

How your management team handles and F&I manager’s missteps or poor behavior can set the tone for positive, teachable moments that can strengthen the staff as a whole.

Common Issues in F&I

Any number of things could go wrong and it’s important for the F&I manager to understand that the faster they recognize the error and take responsibility, the easier it is to move on from it.

Here are two of the most common F&I mistakes that can happen at any dealership whether with a veteran or a rookie F&I manager and suggestions to help reduce errors and/or bad judgment - 

  • Deal Mistakes - Those that have worked a busy Saturday know that things can be missed in every deal. A signature on a contract, an initial on a mileage disclosure, copy of a driver's license. It’s happened to literally everyone who’s ever worked in a dealership and many F&I managers. 

F&I managers have more specific rules and regulations when it comes to paperwork and in the rush of a busy sales day, little things can be missed. The problem becomes huge when it is discovered after the customer has left with the car and when the funding window is starting to close.

Fix - Some dealers have a second set of eyes looking at every deal before the customer leaves the lot. An F&I Director or other higher manager to quickly look at all paperwork to be sure nothing has been missed. 

This is not meant to be a punitive experience either. Bring the mistake to the F&I manager’s attention in a discreet way and have them try to catch the customer before they leave if possible. Encourage them to own their mistake with the customer and apologize for not catching it. 

But ultimately make sure staff understands they are expected to do their part in catching mistakes and taking quick responsibility for them without excuses or deflection.

  • Poor Behavior Caught By Customer -  There are few things worse than a customer overhearing a nasty comment about themselves from dealership personnel and though everyone wants to believe that would never happen at their store, everyone knows it does. The hope is no one hears it or sees it. 

Making a rude comment about a buyer with bad credit, angry comments under your breath about a cash deal, or insulting a customer who pushes back on a product presentation…all scenarios where an F&I manager must see the issue with their behavior and if caught by the customer, be willing to immediately apologize and ask for forgiveness without excuses.

And you can make the argument that the world we live in now is more acutely aware of poor behavior in the consumer landscape than ever before. Better to recognize it now and make it a teachable moment now rather than play defense later on and risk your dealerships’ reputation in the community.

Fix - If a customer lets management know that they heard something, don’t wait to address it with the staff member. Discreetly bring it to their attention and then have them apologize immediately, promising to do better and hoping it doesn’t reflect badly on the dealership. 

None of this is any different than we teach our kids…own the mistake, don’t make excuses, and never include the word ‘but’ in the apology or it will ring hollow to the customer.

Also consider training if this becomes a consistent issue. Sensitivity training to understand that comments can sting anyone and reviewing all steps required in every deal can help avoid issues in the future.

Dealership personnel, especially F&I staff, are there to help customers drive off in the car of their dreams (or close anyway) and to make the process as easy and enjoyable as possible. Addressing mistakes quickly and using those situations to help make staff better will always pay dividends.

date published
April 21, 2023

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