Some of us remember a time of bench car seats, manual crank windows, and actually “kicking the tires.” Oh, so long ago it all was.
Climb inside any modern car and it is quickly obvious that so much of the driving experience is now automated for us, including the availability of information required for driving to gain better mileage and safety, and for getting to places without having to ask for directions.
Think of how much different your driving experience is today. Push a button to ignite a dashboard of digital information displays. Diagnostics boot up. A 3D image of a spinning vehicle alerts you about doors ajar, tire pressures, fluid levels and an ever-growing list of valuable metrics. Connect to your smartphone to know exactly where you parked your car.
All of the vehicle’s vital signs are in lights, flashes and beeps, so there are no excuses for not knowing when to change the oil.
A parallel to this analogy often happens in F&I. The F&I department is a profit engine for your dealer clients. But if there is no “check engine” light, they might be in trouble and not know it!
Even the best professional can be better when using F&I tools that deliver information about customer lifestyles, interactive menus, electronic contracting, or reporting on department performance. There is an entire integrated digital ecosystem available for F&I today, just like there is in the very vehicles being sold. Digitized everything is not a trend. It is the tide of business.
Check the Dashboard
One critical tool for monitoring F&I performance is dashboard reporting. Dashboards manage dealership data with a common, DMS-agnostic platform and standardize data output for critical analysis of key business functions. The dashboard not only consolidates and visualizes key indicators for easy assimilation and action, but it also notifies management of real-time business activity.
“With reporting tools, managers are completely conscious that we are looking at performance all the time, which is the only effective way to manage the business — to see where it is every day,” says Jason Owens, owner of Limerick and Boyertown, Pa.-based Patriot Auto Group.
Dealer principals get the critical reports they need sent to them every day — a snapshot of the health of their business available all day, every day.
Bill Carris, vice president of dealer operations for Philadelphia’s Holman Automotive Group, finds that the reporting tools built into the group’s digital menu platforms provide a wonderful experience for customers.
“Because it also tracks F&I staff performance across 20 stores and provides scorecards for each, our F&I managers compare themselves against their colleagues. The reporting has created nice competition among these managers, and it has also added to our profitability,” he says.
The Agent Connection
Agents find dashboard tools useful to them and their clients.
“I have two very specific month-end reports that, combined, take me about four hours to complete, but with dashboard reporting I get them done in an hour. This is saving me more than 36 hours a year on just two reports,” says David Zuercher, sales and development specialist for SouthWest Dealer Services in Irvine, Calif.
The better dashboard reporting systems give dealers and their managers the ability to filter dynamic information based on their needs and interests, including:
- Vehicle sale type
- Transaction type, whether finance, lease, cash or balloon
- Sales type, including retail, wholesale, dealer trades, fleet, commercial and house deals
- Product type, whether front-end product, F&I product, dealer profit, or aftermarket Items
- DMS posting status, including “to accounting,” “finalized,” “booked,” “in process,” or “clear unwound.”
- Personnel, including F&I managers, the general sales manager and every salesperson
Finally, reporting tools should also provide multiple professional reports that summarize the data in various ways, including:
- Personnel reports that highlight specific people’s performance within a group
- High-level summary reports for PVR and penetration rates
- Detailed transactional breakdown by customer, finance source and F&I vendor
- Detailed Excel logs for product remittance, customer-without-product logs, and more
Transitioning to Modern
When it comes to transitioning an F&I department to using F&I workflow solutions with dashboard reporting tools, again, a parallel to modern automotive technology exists. Many consumers — and likely dealers too — remain unsure about driverless cars and, by comparison, some of those same hesitancies to making the switch to digital automation exist:
- Reliability: Manual processes are reliable inasmuch as people are reliable. However, an abacus is only as good as the person sliding the beads. When those processes combine to deliver an intelligent profile, good people can make good decisions. When automated, better decisions are made faster. Reliability remains, while effectiveness increases.
- Cost: With the increased demands for time, the F&I department need not labor over manual processes. Data is being captured, calculations are being done, needless steps are eliminated, and actionable intel is at hand. Calculate the time savings alone and these tools pay for themselves. Moreover, the focus is on the customer, which leads to more sales and greater retention.
- Skill level: Dealers may have good people who have performed well over the years but are “old school.” Modern F&I tools are designed so they are easily accessible for seasoned pros and rookies. Digital, automated processes help guide the best behaviors in people, ensuring compliance, speed and reduced human error along the way.
Just as modern vehicles integrate countless equations in the background to deliver data to the driver, modern F&I tools, like dashboard reporting, inform decisions about performance, risks and areas that need attention. A funny thing happens when you have all the information: The failure or success of your performance becomes about choices rather than happenstance.