The F&I office is a second thought at many dealerships. If it exists at all, it primarily functions as a lending arm or paperwork administrator for the sales department. This approach not only loses your dealership significant amounts of money, it also greatly impacts your customer’s satisfaction with the sales process.
Every minute that a customer must sit in chair instead of driving off with their new boat decreases their overall satisfaction with your dealership. Your customer is now used to buying things off Amazon and having it delivered the next day. They get their movies and shows on Netflix instantly. Customers now expect an efficient and timely delivery of their goods and will seek out those companies that can deliver that to them, while avoiding those who cannot.
Nowhere in the sales process is inefficiency more apparent than in the F&I office. In fact, some dealers have no dedicated F&I process in place at all. Without a process, financing often must be secured externally, and consumer products that would otherwise be presented go overlooked. This creates more work for your customer and deprives them of additional services and products that may be of benefit to them. It also removes additional revenue opportunities from your dealership and opens you up to a whole slew of compliance issues.
By having a dedicated F&I office or partnering with a third party to provide the service remotely, you mitigate these issues while also greatly increasing customer satisfaction. Now instead of your customer having to pass information between the dealership and the bank, your dealership can quickly secure a lender while your customer is still working with sales, picking out the color of their seats. By the time the customer has made their purchasing decision, the paperwork is ready to go, and the F&I manager can introduce themselves and present the customer with their terms. This also allows a quick break for your salesperson so that they may print or procure any additional items for the customer, while the customer is engaged with F&I. This handoff also ensures that when the customer returns for delivery, they already know your F&I manager and are more comfortable during the delivery process.
Upon returning for delivery, your dedicated F&I manager has overseen the titling and financing paperwork, allowing your salesperson more time to look over the unit and ensure it meets the customer’s expectations. This separation of tasks also decreases the chances that a mistake is made on the paperwork or with the unit. Having an extra set of eyes on closing documents adds a level of redundancy that can save you — and your customer — major headaches. Since your customer is already familiar with your finance manager, sales can now do a complete hand-off and return to focusing on their duties.
Finance now has the responsibility to quickly and accurately present the customer with his or her closing documents and ancillary services. These documents need to be printed ahead of time and presented in a clear and concise way, along with a menu to clearly and quickly show additional services that are of value to the customer. Bringing additional value to your customer is extremely important during the delivery process, as it increases long-term satisfaction with your dealership and leads to more repeat customers.
Some of the products that build additional value are service contracts, appearance protection, pre-paid maintenance, GAP or trailer tire and wheel coverage. It is important to know these products intimately and only present ones that will have an added value to your customer. For instance, if a customer is buying a boat, but will keep it in a slip and not on a trailer, then you should exclude tire and wheel protection from your presentation. The inverse of that would be someone who drives 30 minutes to the lake every day. They may have a spare tire for their trailer, but since a normal car jack should not be used on a trailer, they have no way to install it. Most customers — especially first-time boat owners — do not know this. By bringing it to their attention and offering them a solution, you increase their initial satisfaction while also ensuring continued satisfaction down the road.
Another example of this is with service contracts and appearance protection. The customer expects that the new boat that you just sold them will continue to look new and operate without issue. However, things happen and that is not always the case. When they do, the customer will always reach out to the dealership to make things right. Having to explain to your customer why they now need to spend sometimes thousands more on a boat that they already spent so much on usually leaves your customer less than thrilled. Instead, if you had offered them a way to cover these items when they purchased the boat, and allowed them to wrap those payments into their financing, you could quickly fix the issues at no additional cost to your customer. Getting your customer quickly back on the water for no perceived cost greatly increases their satisfaction and goodwill towards your dealership. It also ensures they return to you for their services. This keeps those service dollars in-house and allows the customer to look at that shiny new boat that you have on the showroom floor.
Having dedicated F&I can greatly affect your customer’s buying process and ultimately how they perceive your dealership. With that said, it is not enough to just have an office – it is also essential that your processes and products are at a level of quality that your customers deserve.
This is a guest blog written by Maxwell Haning of Innovative Dealer Services, Inc., a partner member of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.