“It’s not the time in the F&I office that makes customers want to scream, it’s the time waiting to get in there that makes them angry.”
Recently when a Southwest airplane lost its front landing gear at LaGuardia airport, I was in another Southwest airplane circling overhead. We were eventually diverted to another airport, were unloaded and left in the gate area for more information. They would neither “confirm nor deny” that there had been an incident and they provided no information for over an hour! One gentleman who simply had enough yelled out, “Would you just tell us what is going on?” Although customers may not yell that in our showrooms, they are thinking it. It’s not the time in the F&I office that makes customers want to scream, it’s the time waiting to get in that makes them angry.
We know that longer wait times to get into the F&I office hurts our CSI scores. However, there is no way to determine accurately how much in profits it is costing. Ask the F&I Manager what his or her sales prospects are when they sit with a customer that has waited for 30 minutes to get into the F&I office and they will tell you from first-hand experience that the opportunities are slim with those customers. So what can we do to make the process smoother and more time efficient? Let’s look at three (3) things we can do that will have an immediate impact.
First, we must involve the F&I Manager early in the car buying process. Customers find waiting tolerable when they can see the work being done on their behalf. We must change the perception that the F&I Manager is the person the customer sees at the end of the process who attempts to sell them products they don’t think they need. When we allow customers to see the F&I Manager is involved in helping them with the financing of their vehicle, not only does the value of the F&I Manager increase in their eyes, they feel their time is being used effectively. Nothing says “disrespect” like forcing someone to wait. They simply want to know what is happening and including them in each step will increase customer satisfaction and dealership profits!
Second, we must make the paperwork process a seamless one as we move the customer from sales to F&I. When an F&I manager is trying to enter a deal into the computer and has to stop due to inaccurate or incomplete paperwork, the process begins to deteriorate. The F&I Manager pages the salesperson, waits for them to answer, tells them what is needed, waits until they return with the desired data, and is finally able to continue – the minutes begin to add up. This can easily turn into a 25-30 minute event. The salesperson may be seen looking for a form they are out of, getting copies of information they forgot, or going back for the second time for a signature they missed. Add five minutes to the wait time for each of these events!
Pre-developed “Welcome” packs that include every form a salesperson needs to complete a deal helps keep these problems at bay. The cover page of a Welcome pack should have a photograph of your dealership with the word “Welcome” prominently displayed. A Welcome pack should also contain a letter from the Dealer expressing appreciation for the purchase and all other necessary forms needed for successful completion of the sales process. These packs should be shrink-wrapped and held at the sales desk so once a vehicle is sold the salesperson must come to the sales desk to obtain a packet. Having this defined procedure ensures efficient use of customers’ time.
Third, F&I Managers must stop making customers wait while they enter all of the data into the system, get all the forms ready and create the perfect menu. F&I Managers should meet every customer at the salesperson’s desk, offer them something to drink and bring them into their office right away. Completing the paperwork while the customer is sitting in front of them allows the F&I Manager to have a conversation with them and discover why they need the offered products. It also continues to build on the perception that you are making good use of their time. An F&I Manager cannot build rapport or discover needs while the customer is sitting at the salesperson’s desk waiting on the F&I Manager to get everything ready. When a customer is left to wait at the salesperson’s desk, they feel we are wasting their time and that makes the effort to sell products more difficult.
So how much is the “wait” costing your dealership? It is costing you many points on your CSI scores and an untraceable amount of profit. The only way to know for sure how much profit is being lost is to make your process more time efficient and watch as F&I profits soar. They will, and you will see then just how much profit you have been missing.