To remain competitive in today’s retail automotive space, each step of the car-buying process must be a positive experience for customers. From salespeople to F&I employees, your team must prioritize customer satisfaction. Today’s customers walk into dealerships armed with extensive research on vehicle make, model and pricing options and look to the dealership to provide a quick, straightforward process.
F&I employees have much to contribute when it comes to customer satisfaction. Customers want their F&I options presented in a way that serves their needs. When F&I employees do this successfully, it increases customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat business.
Overall car buying customer satisfaction drops 15 percent when interactions with F&I are factored in, according to the “2017 Car Buyer Journey” from Cox Automotive. Even though these employees work hard to present the best financing options to customers, there is room for improvement in customer service.
With more informed customers buying cars, there are fewer opportunities to profit off the sale itself. It often falls to F&I to sell products and bump up revenue. Juggling this pressure — along with long hours, compliance regulations and customer pushback — leads to high burnout rates among F&I employees. In fact, 38 percent of F&I managers left their roles in 2015. Here are some ways that dealerships can support F&I while growing revenue and increasing customer satisfaction:
1. Adjust Compensation
F&I managers often work long hours and balance many responsibilities. Burnout and turnover are high, but they don’t have to be. One dealership found a solution by taking a page from AutoNation’s book and implementing a salary-plus-commission compensation plan for its F&I employees.
Southwest Kia in Mesquite, Texas, adopted the new compensation structure and saw an increase in F&I productivity, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. F&I employees made less than they did before, but they got much more time off. After going from 80 hours to 45 hours a week and achieving a better work-life balance, F&I employees were more satisfied with their jobs. Furthermore, removing the sales pressure that comes with commission-based pay let F&I employees focus on the needs of individual customers and build better relationships.
Southwest Kia experienced some turnover after the switch, but they chose to use it as an opportunity to promote the high-performing employees who stayed. Your dealership can implement a similar compensation plan to reduce burnout and improve customer experience.
2. Use Customer Feedback
If you don’t check in with your customers, you likely won’t know what’s working and what isn’t. Offer a variety of ways for customers to provide feedback so you can identify areas where your F&I department can improve.
For example, send a “thank you” email after each purchase, letting the customers know you appreciate their business and welcome their feedback. Include a link to a survey or form submission. Additionally, leave survey cards on your front desk for customers to pick up as they leave. Respond graciously to negative feedback and use that feedback to make helpful adjustments to your sales and F&I processes.
3. Offer an F&I Menu
This practice became common in the 1990s, and now, most dealerships have F&I menus. Part of this push is due to stricter compliance benchmarks for F&I departments. But the main benefit of F&I menus is more satisfied customers.
Customers value a streamlined process without added sales pressure. With an F&I menu, employees can quickly present four to eight options and skip the lengthy pitch. This allows customers to easily choose the products and services that fit their needs, boosting customer satisfaction and adding revenue for the dealership.
The retail automotive industry is quickly learning that success begins and ends with a dealership’s employees. By taking care of your team, you ensure your team will take care of your customers.