It’s been said that the next 5-10 years of technology innovation will move faster than that of the past 100 years. Think about that for a moment…how long did it take to go from the lightbulb to the television? Decades. It really has become a ‘blink and you could miss it’ world we live in.
For dealerships, technology has been embraced at almost every level. Schedule a test drive, comparison shop make & models, book a service appointment…it can all be done online now at most stores. Full online engagement has touched nearly every department in the average dealership, except for one…F&I.
Dealers are now asking if they will need F&I staff in the future. With the advent of all digital F&I platforms already hitting the market, the question becomes why does today’s modern dealership need an F&I manager at all? Why not have customers apply online, pick out their aftermarket products, and complete all docs and disclosures with e-signatures? Easy, right? Not so fast.
Let’s take a look at 3 reasons why it’s still important to have an F&I staff and how the latest technology can work with them for greater profits and higher CSI:
- The Human Factor – It’s a given that car shoppers don’t really mind being ‘in the box’ as long as they are treated well and in an ethical manner. People want to connect with other people and having an F&I manager available to walk through the options on financing and product does what a software program cannot do…tell stories of why the product is important to consider.
F&I managers can also ask/answer questions, empathize with customers, and connect at a level that, if done well, can help increase CSI and PVR through honest communication and transparency. Technology helps with tools like interactive menus, online credit applications, and e-contracts & docs to help streamline the experience in the F&I office, but you still need a level of human interaction. When done right, they all work in concert with each other and help produce higher PVR and higher customer satisfaction.
- Helping Others – A digital F&I platform can do many things and while it may seem on the surface as an easy and cost-effective way to execute this side of the business, it cannot help in facilitating support to other departments. Think about it…a strong F&I manager knows how to support the sales process when it’s breaking down. They can help ease a buyer’s fears on payment terms or help explain complicated lease terms if the salesperson is struggling. Every dealer has likely seen this scenario play out more than a few times.
Your F&I manager can also help drive post-sale business to the service and parts departments by doing a walk-through with the customer. That simple gesture can help the customer feel a better connection to the dealership in a way that the all-online F&I process cannot.
- Generational Differences – Car buyers who were not born into the online age are more likely to want the person-to-person engagement that having a professional F&I manager can bring. They expect that talking with a human being at this stage is normal and that while extra tech advances have made much of the small steps much easier, they are still fine with being ‘in the box’ (again, as long as they are treated fairly and ethically).
But for your Millennial buyer, they want a fast, simple, and transparent process to walk through F&I. 63% of consumers (particularly Millennials) are more likely to buy product as part of their car purchase if they have time to research their options on their own prior to purchase. They want to do their own research, plain and simple.
Having your F&I page built with this in mind can help…a basic menu of products, rate and payment calculators, and out of state titling and registration information can help this buyer make decisions ahead of time and actually make it easier for the F&I manager to close on product. You have one-on-one engagement with an informed shopper. Higher profits and happier customers. Win-win.
Until the day when there are no more brink-and-mortar dealerships to buy a car, every store will need talented and professional staff to help guide buyers through the different stages of purchasing a car.
And the F&I manager will not go the way of the dinosaur despite predictions to the contrary. It’s all about adapting and using tech to help them be successful.