Keep it short and simple!
Just because a dealer has a plug-in or piece of technology on their website, doesn’t mean they’re going to be effective with digital F & I retailing.
“It’s the people inside the dealership that make it work,” says Rebecca Chernek, F & I consultant and trainer at Chernek Consulting LLC.
“There are no more walls, they have to be engaged earlier with the consumer. And that includes management.”
These days, the landscape has changed, and not just because of the pandemic. Competitors like Carvana, plus CarMax and Vroom in the U.S., provide a wealth of online services that shorten the consumer buying experience.
“Everywhere there are automotive groups that are offering an efficient, online, touchless buying experience that will shorten the time it takes to buy a car,” says Chernek. “Dealers that don’t offer this kind of experience are going to lose market share.”
Customers have the ability to obtain financing, which will make it difficult for F & I managers to convert the customer to dealer financing. “If we get involved earlier, we can engage with the customer, address customer-specific questions and be able to convert more customers over to our financing,” says Chernek.
Dealers need to be functioning at a higher level when it comes to F & I. “Shortening the time it takes to buy a car, reducing the headache and allowing the customer to self-desk to determine some of these options in advance is where it’s at,” says Chernek.
“We want to reduce the heavy lifting, make sure the customer owns the right car, what they budgeted for, what payment options are available, based on their credit choice, earlier on in the process.”
It’s also critical to align any messaging online with what’s happening in the dealership. “When the customer comes into the dealership, the car has to be ready,” says Chernek. “We’re ready to go ahead, do an appraisal, or a trade-in. That’s got to be part of your culture.”
Although F & I has existed in a neat little bubble, acquiring customers from the showroom floor, that’s hardly the case now. “When customers are doing things digitally or from a distance, you have to bring technology into the process,” says Jeff P. White, F & I consultant and trainer.
He provides online information about insurance, chemical warranties, weather protection and more in the form of PDFs, which incorporate third party comments. These are objective subject matter experts that provide educational comments that don’t overwhelm the customer. “I create a need by using their information,” says White.
These are introduced at various touchpoints online throughout the sale. White points out that until a customer has bought a vehicle, they haven’t decided how they’re going to protect it. But once the decision is made, F & I should have been integrated ahead of time, so the customer doesn’t get drowned in an onslaught of information.
“F & I has to work in conjunction with the sales and management team, so you’re trickling that information in a timely manner,” notes White. “It starts at the sales floor. There has to be communication. Everything has to be personalized, whether it be a video phone call, text, or an actual phone call.”
“We already have these processes available. We just have to adapt them to fit the current situation.”