The New World of F&I - Adapt the F&I Advisor’s Role in the Changing Auto Climate

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If you are in Sales Management, a Financial Services Manager, Dealer Principal, or involved in Indirect Lending or OEM Management, you’ll want to stay tuned to this five-part series from the Center for Performance Improvement.

Automotive sales veterans understand their customers. When they’re buying a vehicle, customers expect to see a finance manager, and they prepare for it. It’s chalked up by most as a necessary evil in the buying process; another dip into their pocket. But if customers were asked about how they’d like the sales experience to go, their answers would largely sound different than the current process. 

It Starts Earlier than Ever - Online

When you’re waiting until the sales agreement is signed and the deal jacket makes its way to the F&I office, you’ve already lost an opportunity. According to F&I trainer Becky Chernek, the F&I manager should enter the equation much sooner in the sales process, like during the negotiation or even the needs assessment. 

Even better, the F&I process can begin online

What’s the result? A better relationship, of course. An early introduction means the F&I office is less daunting and the F&I manager has already developed some rapport. But that requires a fundamental change in approaches.

Change the Role

Eliminate the title “F&I Manager” from your vocabulary and your store. It’s become an advisory role: the F&I advisor. The F&I advisor isn’t “selling” products or insurances anymore; rather, they’re advising the customer what will work best for their needs. And like a sales consultant, the job doesn’t wrap up once the taillights are headed out the driveway.

F&I as an Extension of the Sales Process

Speaking of changing the job, shopper insights in the AutoTrader Car Buyer of the Future study show that 72 percent of car buyers want to save time at the dealership and 71 percent don’t want to feel pressured filling out the paperwork. The F&I office has its work cut out for it by the time the sales agreement is signed. 

The finance office also plays a large role in sales satisfaction, according to research by J.D. Power and Associates. It should come as no surprise that their F&I experience has more impact on customer retention than their vehicle satisfaction! 

Customers Tell Us What They Want

In a focus group about customer expectations in financial services, the expectations are worn on their sleeves:
“Treat me with respect.”
“I want the paperwork to be easy to complete.”
“I want my financing questions answered.”
“I want speedy financing approval.”
“I want to feel as if I got a fair deal.”
“I want the finance agreement to be easy to understand.”
“I want financing terms to be clearly explained.”
“I want to deal with a knowledgeable finance manager.”
“I want to feel as if the finance manager is on my side.”
“I want to choose from a variety of finance plans and options.”
“I want competitive interest rates.”
“I want my billing statements to be timely, easy to understand and accurate.”
“I want to feel that this is not a separate transaction.”

Those clear, concise statements tell what the customer truly wants: honesty, integrity, consultation, and respect. And that leads us to the first phase of satisfaction in financial services. It’s all about selling with integrity, and we’ll explore that in the next article in the series.