When I started full time in my father’s Cadillac dealership 32 years ago, the idea of having a separate F&I department was in its infancy. My Dad resisted this new industry trend. He believed that a good sales experience began with, and ended with, a good salesperson. From the meet-and-greet to signing and delivery, our process was to have the entire transaction handled by one point of contact. Although our process had its drawbacks, like lackluster F&I product sales, it resulted in a high level of customer satisfaction.
However, many of the dealers in our 20 group who installed a F&I department were seeing great results, and their profits were hard to ignore. This finally convinced my father to give it a try. With the right manager in place, we separated the F&I activity into its own department, and profits soared. We became part of a new trend that grew to be the industry standard.
But times are changing, and today’s customers don’t really like being bounced around from person to person. They are demanding a better experience. Dealers who embrace the ‘old-new’ one contact model will reduce the ‘bounce effect.’ This process also minimizes another pain point, the time it takes to complete a purchase transaction.
I was reminded of all this recently when my wife purchased her new car. The Salesperson was the one point of contact, from demonstration to delivery. It was a pleasant and efficient experience and this dealer will receive the highest marks on the customer satisfaction survey.
Better customer satisfaction and faster transaction times are just a couple of benefits to this old-new trend. Many dealers are also seeing an increase in product sales. After all, who better to recommend appropriate aftermarket products than the one contact who has developed the relationship and knows the customer’s driving habits best? According to ‘Automotive News’ Walser Automotive Group in Minneapolis reports a $375 higher average baseline than when they had separate F&I managers.
The combined sales and F&I process is not for every dealership. It really boils down to the vision and strategy of the dealer. If the dealer’s vision and strategy is to differentiate themselves from the competition, speed up the purchase transaction, and provide customers a better experience, the combined Sales and F&I process may be right for you.
Stay tuned to my next blog where I will discuss how to get started and what to watch out for in developing your ‘old-new’ one contact F&I process. Please share your opinion and thoughts below.