Titles.

Do they matter and if so, do they matter to the person who has the title or the person interacting with them?

In dealerships, as in most businesses, the staff has titles dependent on where they fall in terms of authority. Director, manager, salesperson, service advisor, parts counterperson, and clerk. These are the titles customers see the most at the dealership.

There is movement among some in the dealer industry that has suggested that one position in particular should have a complete overhaul of their title within the dealership…the F&I manager.

F&I staffThe reasoning goes something like this – there is already such a negative perception among car buyers that the F&I experience is all about a high-pressure or borderline sleazy sales process where you are bombarded with products you don’t want and suffer an unnecessary delay to getting your tags and keys. The mere mention of ‘F&I Manager’ will turn off buyers and immediately make them feel on-guard and resistant to the presentation of products or other finance options.

The answer? Some dealers called these professionals ‘billing clerks’ or ‘business clerks’ or my favorite, ‘delivery coordinator’.

Not necessary. This is not the answer to your ‘buyers hate the F&I office’ issue.
Here are three reasons why your F&I staff should maintain the title of ‘F&I Manager’:

  1. THEY HAVE A BIG RESPONSIBILITY – Your F&I staff has the heavy burden of holding high PRU’s to add dollars to the dealership’s bottom line. It’s often the case at most stores that F&I, along with Service, make the most gross profit. They have the responsibility of getting the deals bought, paperwork executed within all the new regulatory requirements, posting down payments, and issuing tags and other DMV-related paperwork. They are often the last one to leave at night. Why? Because units cannot be delivered without them.

With that level of authority and responsibility, that goes well beyond the duties of a ‘clerk’. Clerks push papers. Clerks are not tasked with selling anything. Clerks are often paid an hourly wage with no commissions earned. F&I Managers are a critical part of the team that moves units, makes money, and keeps customers happy and returning.

  1. IT’S HONEST – If a buyer is told by their salesperson that their next stop is to see the ‘billing clerk’ to finish up paperwork, that is not exactly honest. This person is still tasked with reviewing financing options. This person will still be presenting or ‘selling’ aftermarket products and services so it’s not REALLY just signing a few pieces of paper and driving off in your new car. It’s more than that.

So how does the buyer’s attitude change when they now are sitting through their menu presentation? They would likely be irritated that this ‘clerk’ is now trying to sell them when that is not what the salesperson told them was about to happen. The expectation is set one way and something different happens afterward. There is your bad CSI waiting to happen.

  1. PROFESSIONAL POSITION, PROFESSIONAL TITLE – Dealers expect a great deal of their F&I staff. They spend thousands to provide proper industry training to keep them current on best practices and state & Federal regulations. Their higher compensation reflects the focus on maintaining a high level of profit-per-unit and quality CSI. They are often asked to come out to the sales floor to help close deals and support the sales team.

In short, they are expected to be professional in every way. The title ‘manager’ reflects that expectation. F&I Managers being reduced to ‘billing clerks’ may be one surefire way to diminish their role to not only their peers within the dealership but also to the buyers as well. If you want your F&I staff to rise to the professional challenge of their role, calling them ‘manager’ is the way to achieve that. Call them ‘clerk’ and see how their behavior and level of confidence changes. That’s just human nature.

I understand the need to minimize the resistance that buyers have to the F&I experience. Of course, you want them open and receptive to the product presentation and there have been decades of ‘bad apples’ within dealerships that have made that experience something buyers dread. But if this is happening at your store, it’s not because of the title of your F&I personnel.

Look deeper at what is happening in the office. Look at practices and procedures…are they being followed, or do you have a rogue employee who is engaging in unethical or high-pressure tactics to sell product? Do they need better training? Are the salespeople executing a proper ‘warm hand-off’ to F&I in a way that does NOT foster resistance and instead gives them the proper expectation from the start? Any of these scenarios can be easily fixed without changing titles.

F&I Managers occupy a unique space within the dealership, and they should be held to a higher standard within your store. That starts with expecting them to rise to the title and responsibility that goes along with it. Maybe this is all semantics but, in this position, you want our staff to conduct themselves as managers, because that is what they are.

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