3 Ways to Make Sure Your F&I Office is Ready (and Safe) for Customers During the COVID-19 Recovery

F&I office

Millions of people nationwide have likely had anything BUT buying a car on their mind for the last 2 months but as states start to ease restrictions on car sales, dealership showrooms will become busier. Lots will have traffic again and inventory will slowly start to move.

F&I departments will come to life as well. Many dealers have moved the entire process online to help keep enough sales flowing to keep the lights on, but back end grosses are taking an enormous hit. For many customers, there is no real substitute for a face-to-face sales experience no matter how much some have grown to hate it.

But how much trust will your customers have that your store is ready with appropriate health measures to protect everyone?

What are some of the ways you can help buyers feel safe coming into the F&I office? What steps can your take to keep yourself AND your buyer safe and give them the trust they need that your store is taking COVID-19 seriously?

If you haven’t thought about it, you better think about it now.

Here are a few ways your store can get the F&I office and staff ready so everyone is confident that health and safety are your top priority…even over profit.

Sanitizing the Office: How Often is Enough? | ServiceMaster

Setting Up Your Office 

Hopefully your dealership has already put safety measures in place for the lot, service lanes, and showroom. The F&I office is unique…it is generally the smallest office in the dealership and a bit cramped even in the most modern of stores. Here’s where things can get tricky with COVID-19 guidelines.

Consider reducing the number of chairs in your office. Bring one signer in at a time to help insure social distancing for you. Order pens that are in individual sealed packaging so the buyer is only using something they have touched (or suggest they use their own).

Take all brochures or binders off the desk. No toys or items meant for kids to play with. Keep your desk as clear as you can. Disinfect it before and after each buyer comes in and keep chairs a few feet back from the desk if space allows. Digital menus or DocuPads should be cleaned after each buyer. Hand sanitizer on the desk at all times and no handshakes.

And it should not need to be said but I will anyway…wear a face covering. You may not want to but your customers will likely be wearing one and it is the preventative measure that can help the most.

Some measures retailers are taking like plexiglass shields may be difficult to use in this part of the dealership but it’s worth considering. With diligence and care, both you and your buyers will be able to execute their paperwork in as safe a fashion as possible. None of it is easy or familiar but it’s all critically important now.

Related: Auto Retail Customer Safety Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Staggered Staffing & E-Docs

Some dealerships are considering a slow build on staffing with one F&I manager coming in one day and another the other day. Rotating can help with reducing the overall number of people in the store, at least in the beginning. As volume increases and state health restrictions lift, more staff can be in at the same time.

If your dealership has not embraced the digital age, now is the time to start adopting it. DocuSign and other e-signature platforms (as allowed by your state’s law) should be offered for those buyers who are worried or anxious about coming into the store or the F&I office to complete their paperwork.

In light of how the market is changing, this should be something every store should offer now. COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon and stores that show this level of flexibility for their customers will rebound quicker than those that don’t.

Listen with an Empathetic Ear 

Buyers coming back to the dealership have been sheltering in place in most states, working from home for the first time, or in many cases, out of work. Many may have had a friend or loved one suffer with COVID-19 or know someone lost to the disease. Everyone coming into your office will have a story.

Now is the time to listen. Really listen to where they are now and where they have been. Yes, it’s your job to sell financing options and product but this is an extraordinary time for everyone. This is the time to ask the right questions, to show empathy for whatever their story is. Come from a place of service first and the sales opportunity will present itself easily.

Tailor questions around what their needs are now versus before the virus hit. Be mindful of any anxiety they may have financially and be empathetic. If they are returning to work and are still worried about the future, gently shift to products that will ease their financial burden in the months and years ahead, helping them keep their car on the road and out of the shop.

Share your own story of the last 2 months. Be a real person not the slick F&I salesperson they expect you to be. People will always buy from someone they feel is like them. Be human. We have all been affected in one way or the other and the buyer will appreciate you sharing your story.

Related: Used Car Buyers Still Prefer Buying at Dealership, Not Online

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

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