Sales and service are the most visible parts of any dealership, but dealers and GMs who ignore F&I — or don’t give it the focus that it deserves — are not only leaving money on the table, but they are underserving their customers.
In the typical dealership, the F&I department represents between 30 and 40 percent of the overall profitability of the business, but it often treated as an afterthought to the car-buying process. By putting in the time and effort to give F&I the emphasis it deserves, both your dealership and the consumer will get the best deal possible from the car-buying experience.
To build that emphasis, dealers, GMs and F&I managers should look at the following:
Integrate F&I at the Beginning — One of the keys to success is to introduce the F&I manager or team early in the process. Many dealerships wait until the car is selected, negotiations are hammered out and the deal is almost done — and then bring in the F&I department. People are often tired — both physically and mentally — at the end of sales process, and not receptive to yet more offerings and paperwork. Studies have found that 63 percent of online consumers said they would be more likely to buy F&I products if they were educated about them before they came into the dealership. Introducing the process early makes it a part of the experience, instead of a new obstacle standing in the way of the customer driving off in their new vehicle.
Make it Easy — It’s never been easier to integrate F&I into the sales process. There are now products available that allow customers to begin the F&I process on the dealership’s Website — even on phones and tablets. An educated customer is much easier to deal with than one who you have to introduce ideas and concepts to. Customers, especially Millennials, are more comfortable with business transactions on smartphones and other devices than ever before. By taking advantage of online and mobile technology, you’re communicating to the customer in the way they prefer. As shopping habits change and technology becomes more advanced, more and more customers are going to demand the ability to do a full online vehicle sales transaction, coming to the dealership only to pick up the vehicle and get educated about its features. Take the steps today to get ahead of the curve and serve your customers in all aspects of the online sale.
Make it Transparent — When dealing with educated customers, your F&I staff needs to be on top of their game. Giving them the tools they need to not only meet the customer’s needs but surpass them is key to making the F&I department the profit center that it needs to be. By using up-to-date, fully integrated menu systems and other technology, your staff can address the specific needs of the customer — their vehicle, their driving habits, the existing warranty and other factors that will affect what they need and what they want. The last thing you want is to surprise your customer late in the sales process, so take advantage of technology to be accurate with your offerings. Only by providing real numbers can you make a real deal — and a happy customer.