An F&I manager once shared with me a work-stress nightmare he’d had. Trapped in his office in a steadily rising sea of paper, he was unable to call out or make a sound as the paper rose higher and higher, until he was swallowed up.
Luckily, that was just a bad dream. But there’s an underlying truth to that image, which many dealership employees (and not just F&I managers) can identify.
It’s a truth confirmed by stacks of file storage boxes in business offices. Left unchecked, they slowly form into clusters and then fill storage rooms, until they become almost unmanageable.
Dealerships are drowning in paper.
That paperwork really does seem to take on a life of its own over time. The management of it necessitates entirely new tasks and personnel, often adding an extra burden on already-busy employees and even the creation of new positions.
Think of a customer from six months ago who needs a copy of their vehicle sales contract for tax purposes, and the ensuing scavenger hunt through boxes and filing cabinets that takes place. Think of the cost of paper, ink, toner, storage space, and postage on your bottom-line.
Now, also think of how that flood of paper reinforces the worst perceptions of a dealership for consumers.
Here are two areas of your dealership most-impacted by the glut of paper, and what you can do to take charge of your processes.
The prevalence of paperwork is perhaps more pronounced in the F&I department than any other area of the dealership.
F&I paperwork takes nearly three dozen forms to complete, deal jackets can be more than an inch thick, and additional regulations every year ensure that compliance requirements are always getting more complex. Put end to end, those documents add up to nearly 39 feet of paper required to complete every automobile purchase!
What’s more, a process dominated by paper is a guaranteed time-drain on your dealership, because personnel in different departments are unable to take the next step in a vehicle transaction as they wait for paper to make its way to their desks.
Finally, dealers spend a great deal of resources (time, effort, and money) on the physical handling and management of all that paper: filing, archiving, retrieving, and, when regulations allow, destroying it.
Paper also creates a significant time-and-resource-drain in the Service department.
Even in processes where it doesn’t play a direct role, the presence of paper necessitates a lot of added on-task time. According to our research, every repair order (RO) your Service department processes takes, on average, more than 15 minutes of total walking time to process, much of which is attributable to the lack of a digitized system of communication and information storage and retrieval.
Plus, all the paper involved in processing Service transactions needs a place to be stored for possible retrieval at a later date, as well.
How many ROs does your dealership handle every day?
Take Charge of Your Processes
Often it seems that dealers have accepted the flood of paper and its costs as just another cost of doing business – but you don’t have to.
There’s a way to take charge of your processes, and it lies in investing in a digitized process.
With the right technology platform and digital tools, dealers can eliminate many of the inefficiencies in their processes that come from physically handling paper or contacting others in the dealership.
There are five areas where you can take significant action right now to stop drowning in paper:
- Scan documents and store them digitally. Paper has to be stored in a dealership, but it requires space – eventually a lot of space. Invest in a scanning system that allows you to automatically collect, store, secure, retrieve, track, and maintain business documents in an electronic format. For example, you can electronically store all of the documents after a deal into one secure location. Customers can also receive all of their deal paperwork on a flash drive instead of an unwieldy folder of paperwork they never want to look through again.
- Move to a complete, digital selling solution in the F&I office. Consider a digital F&I presentation tool that provides personalized menu presentation, displays forms in an electronic menu format, discloses necessary contract and lease information, and captures files in an electronic deal jacket, neatly eliminating that 39 feet of paper your F&I manager handles with every deal (and perhaps saving them from nightmares of drowning in a sea of paper).
- Schedule service appointments online. Have your customers schedule online with a system integrated to your DMS appointments system, eliminating the need for a physical calendar or schedule, which often results in accidental double-bookings. When customers schedule online, they provide a brief description of their maintenance request or the vehicle concern, reducing the time it takes to complete the write-up process and start servicing the vehicle when they arrive.
- Digitize service tasks to reduce paper shuffling. Tools and services such as the ability to text with customers directly, RFID-enabled technology that gets the RO write-up process started as soon as customers pull into the service drive, electronic estimating tools that provide quick and consistent pricing for service repairs, and automated electronic communication that allow technicians and advisors to communicate without having to meet face-to-face, all cut down on the time-wasting factor that paperwork brings to the equation.
- Send paperwork where it needs to go electronically. Services are available that can transform previously paper-based processes into regular electronic communications from the dealership: Account Receivable Statements, EFT remittances, and cash receipts. This enhances your efficiency with immediate and automatic communication and eliminates yet another time-consuming interaction with physical paper for your employees. The benefits only multiply if you decide to integrate more than one of these options into your process. That customer from six months back who needed a copy of their contract for tax purposes? Just send it electronically as soon as you hang up the phone, since you have the file in your scanning system.
Consider also that digitizing processes in one area of the dealership tends to optimize any preexisting automated processes you may be using in other areas of the dealership – a sort of ripple effect of efficiency.
The day-to-day business of running a successful dealership is complicated enough without an ever-increasing mountain of filing boxes encroaching on your space and eating into your employees’ time.
Invest in solutions to digitize your processes, and go from bad dreams of drowning in paper to bright realities of process improvement and profit growth.