During a recent (and rare) vacation along Florida’s Gulf Coast, I watched more evening TV than I have in quite some time. I was amazed by how many dealership commercials I experienced. It appeared that everyone was trying to gain a competitive edge with the cleverest marketing ideas and the guaranteed lowest price.
With today’s customer it is not marketing, price or product that will cause you to lose to the competition, it is the customer experience! The F&I experience is the one that customers remember the most, and since it is the last step in the car-buying process, it has a tremendous impact on overall satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat visits. If we want to change customer behavior, we must change the experience.
There are three specific demands that customers are making concerning the F&I experience. That represents three opportunities to gain a competitive advantage!1. Value My Time!
Customers value their time almost as much as they value their money. The one thing we all find frustrating in all our retail purchase efforts is the time we must wait. If we find ourselves waiting in line at a fast food counter, airport travel desk, supermarket checkout or gas pump, we become very frustrated. Should we expect anything less from a customer who has just purchased a $35,000-plus vehicle? And if a customer is frustrated when they finally enter the F&I office, profits suffer.
Eliminating the wait for the F&I process produces a customer who is still excited about the purchase of their vehicle, and that is a definite competitive advantage.2. Meet Me Early!
When the customer meets the F&I manager for the first time at the end of the buying process, they are defensive and filled with questions. They want to know who this person is, what are they going to do, and how long this is going to take. The F&I manager should meet the customer early in the process and, if they are financing, offer to take their information and submit it to the lender. Then the customer sees the F&I manager is working for them and trying to help them get the vehicle they want at a payment they can afford.
Once the customer reaches the F&I office the F&I manager has already had an opportunity to make a connection with them, get excited with them about their purchase and assure that they are perceived as someone they can be comfortable working with to complete their purchase. That’s another competitive advantage.3. Help Me, Don’t Sell Me!
The process we use to build value in F&I products will determine if we are perceived as trying to help them make good decisions in connection with their purchase or if we are just trying to sell them something. If the F&I manager provides a lot of the two “L”s: laughter and listening, the process is comfortable and one in which the customer feels at ease asking for the knowledge and expertise of this helpful person.
We should never forget that money follows service everywhere it goes. Want to produce more profits and income? Help more customers! Providing a comfortable and helpful experience will do more to move customers to buy than any sales technique we can employ. And you guessed it: That’s another competitive advantage.
Customers’ frustration with the F&I portion of the sale is not a resistance to the products themselves but rather the experience. Great companies such as the Ritz-Carlton, Apple and Disney have all become leaders in their markets due to a focus on providing a great customer experience. And the profits seemed to take care of themselves. Their competitive advantage was the experience they provided and it is the same for the F&I office.
When it comes to providing a great experience for every customer in your dealer clients’ F&I offices, demand it, support it, train to it and compensate effectively to those that do it well. Hopefully I can go back to the beach and do some more research on this and get back to you!
I look forward to seeing you on my next post! Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!