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One Area That Affects F&I Satisfaction? Inventory

It stands to reason that the faster a salesperson can locate the vehicle for a test drive, the better for every department across the dealership.

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You read that right. While the F&I process often occurs after the sales portion is finished, studies show the amount of time it takes to find the vehicle on a lot can affect customer satisfaction overall. It makes sense — if the car buyer is feeling good about the speed of the process by the time they hit the F&I office, they’ll be more open to listening to the options available. If they feel they’ve been in the dealership too long already and are getting tired, that buyer will become defensive, agitated and have less desire to stay and listen to F&I options. It stands to reason that the faster a salesperson can locate the vehicle for a test drive, the better for every department across the dealership.

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Some studies have shown that it can take a salesperson as long as 40 minutes to locate the buyer’s desired vehicle on a lot. Even if the sale continues, the customer will already have hit this time limit and be ready to be on their way. What if the dealership could decrease even one part of the process to five to 10 minutes instead? The half hour saved while looking for inventory may just be the missing element between success and failure in F&I (or any department, for that matter.)

An AutoTrader report — “It’s About Time: Streamlining In-Store Processes to Improve the Customer Experience” — rated the time it takes to purchase a car as the No. 1 customer frustration, with negotiating a purchase price and getting a good trade-in offer as second and third, respectively. It’s not surprising that time ranks above price and trade-in value when it comes to customer goodwill.

The report goes on to say, “According to the IHS Automotive Buyer Influence Study, 55 percent of new car buyers and 57 percent of used car buyers experienced frustration during the vehicle purchase process, largely due to the amount of time it took to negotiate a purchase price and complete the sales process.”

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Locating a vehicle on the lot for the customer is often time intensive. If the dealership is able to decrease this wait time and frustration, how much easier will it be to sell that vehicle and increase F&I sales? Your F&I sales will be directly reflected by your customer’s attitude and satisfaction level. Why not give them every opportunity to get in, get out and get on their way quickly?

The same AutoTrader study shows that customer satisfaction is highest the first 90 minutes a customer is in the dealership, but steadily decreases with every minute past that hour and a half. The first sign of declining customer satisfaction occurs at the 1.5-hour mark and continues to decline significantly from that point on. At the 2.5-hour mark, satisfaction dips below the average.

Customers are now educated by the time they hit the dealership with their own research and know what they want. The faster a dealer can show them the exact vehicle they’ve come in for, the more goodwill and trust is built, and less frustration is encountered.

Still another study, the 2015 eLend Solution Survey, found that, although a full 85 percent of dealers surveyed think that under two hours is the ideal amount of time for a sales transaction, 42 percent still said that selling a car typically takes between three to five hours.

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There is an obvious disconnect when the customer’s satisfaction is highest at 90 minutes and the majority of dealerships are taking three to five hours to complete the transaction. Of course, there are a variety of other things a dealership can do to speed the sales process — everything from online forms to integrated systems to seamless integrations between departments during the sale — but it’s becoming apparent that each minute a dealer can save a would-be car buyer is critical.

Why not take something as simple as inventory tracking, implement it on your lot and save close to 40 minutes? Your customers will be happier with the sales process, more willing to listen to F&I and, in the end, readier to give your dealership solid “5’s” on CSI scores. It’s a win-win-win.

Mark Sargeant

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