Surveys continue to show that many consumers aren't exactly fans of the typical dealership F&I experience. Now more than ever, consumers are demanding a transparent, "no hassle" car buying experience. You would think having access to multiple lenders through a dealer's onsite finance and insurance department, with a knowledgeable professional who can explain their options and answer their questions, would be seen by customers as a valuable resource. Yet in far too many dealerships, the F&I sales process is built around maximizing dealer revenue, with little or no consideration given to maximizing customer value.
Simon Sinek, a professor at Columbia University, found that truly great companies think, act, and communicate who they are and what they do from the inside, out. If Sinek were to visit your dealerships, he might ask, "What is your purpose, your cause, and your belief? What is your reason for being?" Rather than start with what you do, start with why you do it. If you want to ensure the F&I experience is viewed by your customers as being valuable to them, first start with why you have an F&I department.
Profit as a Motivator?
Profit cannot be the primary reason to have an F&I department. Profit is the result of helping customers. If you want to make more money, help more customers. The focus of every business — and every department — must always be on helping customers. Customers don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. So, if you want to sell more F&I products, start with why you offer them: “We have an F&I department to help our customers. We only offer products and services that provide outstanding value for our customers.”
Value is the Key
Justifying the existence of the F&I department requires dealerships take a hard look at the value they offer to customers and its effect on the sales process. A dealership must decide which products they want to offer customers in connection with their purchase. I passionately believe dealers should only offer products that extend real value to the customer. They must add value to the ownership experience, help protect the customer's investment, and provide them genuine peace of mind. Some products will have more appeal than others on specific vehicles, and even the geography matters. A GPS Theft Deterrent device is not as valuable in a small neighborhood as it would be on a metropolitan area. Determining the products you offer should depend on several factors, including where the dealership is located and the vehicles that you offer.
Reason to Believe
Whatever F&I products are offered, they must offer genuine value to your customers, and they must be products that the leadership personally believes in. If you would not sell VIN etch to your own family members, you shouldn't be asking those in dealerships to sell it. For the F&I process to be relevant, every step of it must help the customer, not just the dealership. If your F&I process includes making multiple presentations for products the customer has no interest in, you are wasting their time. A needs-based F&I process is one that customers enjoy, and it also makes the most profit when utilized effectively.
Today, the F&I department must add value to the customer's purchase experience, beginning with why the dealership even offers these products and services. When you start with the why, the how, and the what of your F&I process, it becomes clearer — and more profitable. The success of any business depends on its ability to help customers. Only when the focus is on helping people does the F&I process become truly valuable to your customers. That's the "why" of every successful business and how every general agent can help their dealer partners be more successful.