Finding F&I Gold On The Service Drive
Finding F&I Gold On The Service Drive

Recent economic circumstances have influenced many dealerships to look outside of the conventional ways they have been doing business and look for additional means within their facilities to increase lost revenues they have suffered.

One of the most prominent strategies now emerging is to sell F&I products in the service department. It seems the word of the day is “service drive.” That’s right, “service drive” as in what’s your “service drive process” for selling F&I products? The “we can sell F&I products in the service lane” is swiftly becoming a top priority in dealerships across the country.

Typically we go into a store and roll-out a Service Drive Referral Program where we spiff the Service Advisor to refer eligible service contract buyers to the F&I office. We’ll place all kinds of brochures and hang tags throughout the service department and customer lounge. We’ll stamp or flag repair orders and spiff cashiers to point them out to customers. We do this all in an effort to maximize Vehicle Service Contract sales in the service drive.

We’ve done this as a “best practice” for years and have seen minimal to no results.

Regardless of the Service drive process you install the reality is Service Advisors and Cashiers after suggesting a Protection Product stop at the first "no" and the Stamps and Hang Tags only come into play when the customer initiates a request for more information. When we think we’re digging for gold all that’s happening is we’re picking up nuggets only on the surface undermining our efforts at reaching the core and maximizing the potential.

The disappointing results place us in a predicament, and we must ask how can we make this work?

Some think the answer is to take F&I out of the equation and train the Service Advisors to sell protection products. I say that too will fall short of the mark. The reason is simple service advisors generally lack the sales savvy and tenacious appetite to sell more and quite frankly are very busy in the rush of service. Certainly they’re able to up-sell the replacement of worn out or broken parts because it’s tangible and a problem that demands a resolution.

Let’s face it, each morning around 7:30 AM as the service drive garage doors open, a flood of vehicles awaits each service advisor and while the service advisors are scrambling around trying to accommodate customers who are in a rush to get to work are they really going to take the time to present protection products or services, probably not.

“If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.”W. C. Fields

So what’s the solution? How can we finally make this work?

First thing we need to do is STOP the F&I managers from WAITING for referrals to come from the service advisors or cashiers. F&I managers need to realize the spiffs, hang tags and stamped or flagged repair orders are not going to get the job done. F&I managers need to take a proactive role in the service drive process in order to maximize the results.

Through the years I have been fortunate to witness the effect of a proactive approach. I know of many F&I managers who have formed a habit of visiting with their service advisor at least three times a day and asking for the business. The results are outstanding as their overall Service Contract penetration always sets the standard for performance.

Take action and start holding F&I managers accountable, inspire them to action by providing and maintaining a method for tracking the results of the service drive process. The fact is no service drive process will reach its full potential without the support of the F&I department. The F&I manager needs to form a partnership with the service advisors. This partnership can easily be formed by taking one simple step: Enter the dealership through a different door, the service department doors.

If you truly want to increase protection product sales in the service lane, then the F&I manager needs to pick up the habit of entering the dealership every morning through the service door and before they settle into their office make their first stop to each service advisor’s station so they can quickly scan the days repair orders for potential sales starting with those customers waiting in the customer lounge for their vehicle’s service or repair to be completed. Click here to see an example.

Next step is to walk into the customer lounge, preferably with the service advisor, and make their introductions. Typically the service advisors arrive at the dealership hours before F&I managers do. In an effort to better qualify customers as to their eligibility for a service agreement train service advisors to use the following statement; “I need to update our records. Do you have a vehicle service contract number I can enter into your service record?”

Knowing the customer‘s status regarding a vehicle service contract allows the business manager to select a more qualified customer to present to. The odds are now in their favor. Once they have a receptive customer they have an opportunity to present more than the Vehicle Service Contract they can present Paintless Dent Removal, Road Hazard Tire or Environmental Protection just to name a few protection products.

Continue with the spiffs, hang tags, stamped and flagged repair orders. Just initiate the essential component that’s been missing all along and you’ll find the gold below the surface.

The essential component to a successful service drive process is F&I being proactive rather than reactive. Keep the Service Adviser focused on up-selling the recommended maintenance, the air filter replacement and brake jobs. Leave the sale of F&I products and services to the subject matter experts, the F&I managers.