Traditional dealers have struggled in the last few years with how to handle the online F&I process. Many have resisted it but now with the COVID-19 crisis affecting nearly every state and auto dealer in America, it’s forcing some to come into the 21st-century kicking and screaming.

The question is, for those dealers that are still able to sell within their state’s pandemic guidelines, what are some of the ways dealers new to this part of the process can still maintain a profitable F&I department during these uncertain times? What are some unique ways that the online experience can be enhanced and made easy for staff AND buyer?

Let’s take a look at 3 steps that your F&I department can take right away to help make this new normal a little easier….

Be SeenF&I

 In the wake of social distancing rules to lessen the chance of catching or spreading the COVID-19 virus, many dealerships are offering a ‘No Touch’ sale and delivery. Sales does a live video walkaround or brings the car to you for a test drive, F&I can execute all the paperwork for approval and delivery, and the car is brought to you.

Sounds great but some buyers will need a way to connect with F&I to discuss finance and product options. What are the best ways to do that? By leveraging what most businesses are right now – web conferencing and live video calls (think FaceTime).

Zoom and WebEx are two conferencing platforms that are blowing up right now in terms of their ease of use and free access. Email your customers a quick link, jump on video together in real time, and walk through their options while answering questions and dealing with any objections face to face (well, sort of…).

Connecting in this way is not ideal of course but right now it serves an important purpose in keeping people safe and yet being able to help add the necessary profit to the deal.

You may find some customers actually prefer this method of communication and may be more receptive to the sales presentation in what is a less intimidating environment. Some buyers just don’t like ‘the box’.

Related: The Future of F&I and Other Trends

Offer Special Deals

With manufacturers offering 0% financing, longer terms (some as long as 84 months), and deferred payments up to 120 days to help with buyers who have been laid off, now may be the time to mirror that in F&I. Hang on now…hear me out.

F&I accounts for an average of 30% of the profit for the average dealership. But these are extraordinary times and it calls for extraordinary measures to help consumers who are struggling through no fault of their own. If the OEM’s can offer upfront help, F&I can, too. It buys goodwill after things return to normal and can help garner great PR for the store.

Consider a special protection package for buyers who are approved through captive financing. Wrap up extended warranties with GAP (if sold in your state), and credit life (could be more important than ever right now). Or a warranty, pre-paid maintenance, and tire & wheel. Be creative and price it a bit lower than usual.

Market it the same way that sales is marketing special rate and terms. Make it clear YOUR store wants every borrower during these unprecedented times to have the most protections for their investment that they can and your special ‘protection package’ will do just that (for a limited time, of course).

When things get back to normal (and I believe they will), your buyers will remember that and be more apt to refer others to your store and leave favorable reviews online. It’s all about making sure they understand that F&I is doing their part to help. No, you don’t have to cut too far but a little may go a long way to maintaining a decent PRU.

F&IShow Some Love After Delivery 

If your store is offering delivery after the sale, consider reaching out to the buyer right afterward. A quick call, FaceTime, or Zoom call to see if there are any questions with paperwork that was sent with the car or with any general questions they may have.

It can also help prevent chargebacks with a friendly call after the sale to address any concerns. People are less likely to back out of product if they get some post-sale reinforcement. Remember, these buyers did not have the benefit of shaking your hand and making that connection like they would under normal circumstances…this little step can bridge that gap.

That extra ‘touch’ made be critical to making a buyer who is a bit skeptical about the online F&I process feel more secure about it. It’s going to be very different for most car buyers to have to take delivery this way after decades of the standard way of car shopping. COVID-19 has us all doing things a bit differently than we are used to, and car shoppers are no exception.

Dealers have never faced this kind of selling environment and some stores can’t sell at all right now. This is a time where F&I can shine and embrace the online tools available to help keep profit coming in while connecting with buyers in a way that keeps everyone healthy and safe. It will also shine a positive light on your store that will help when the world emerges from this crisis.

Related: Six Ways You Can Help Your Customers Navigate After-Sales Services During COVID-19



Did you enjoy this article from Kristine Cain? Read other articles from her here.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hello, Im from Miami, I worked as an F&I Mgr for 14 of the 17 years that I was in the business, IMO if feel that maybe if the greedy dealership owners would close down their sales depts for the time being, and stop the probable continual spread of this virus in the process so that all of us can get back to normal quicker with less loss of life, they might reap more rewards than scratching the bottom of the barrel and doing unethical things like not allowing people to turn in their lease returns without leasing or purchasing another! People will remember these things when this blows over…GREED will not bode well.

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