According to a 2016 Car Buyer Experience Survey, buyers were least satisfied with the long purchasing process. Interactions with the F&I department came in second. On average customers spent three hours purchasing a vehicle, and more than half of this was spent negotiating and doing paperwork.
To improve the customer experience, dealers have to start thinking of ways to decrease the amount of time it takes for car buyers to walk through the F&I process. However, many dealers likely wonder if there are ways to shorten the process while also getting dealers all the information they need to conduct the purchase securely. With some strategy and technology, it is definitely possible. Read on for five ways dealers cannot only reduce the time of the F&I process but make the jobs of F&I professionals a lot easier.
Only Show Them Vehicles They Can Afford
Many times, an F&I conversation can turn complex when the monthly payments are too high, but a customer has fallen in love with a car. This scenario creates an environment where F&I managers have to work through calculations, discounts, and various other time-consuming methods to work with customers to get them in a car they cannot actually afford. Before taking customers around the showroom, sales staff should make it a point to ask customers what they are looking for their monthly payments to be. This way, sales staff can only show vehicles that are within the budget boundary for customers, making an acceptable monthly payment a lot easier to achieve during the F&I process.
Use Technology to Give Customers a Clearer Picture
Some dealerships have realized the more information they can provide upfront, the better. Giving a salesperson a tablet with a cost calculator that allows customers to see estimates of monthly payments can go a long way in also keeping customers in cars they can afford. This action can considerably reduce anxiety walking into the F&I process. Using a tablet to work out monthly payment estimates also enhances the customer experience, and shows that dealers are trying to help instead of just sell.
Install a Credit Application on the Website
The team at Dealertrack, a provider of integrated dealership technologies, has figured out a way to speed up the F&I process even more. Dealertrack offers tools that allow dealers to not only receive credit information from the customer online, but it also integrates with third-party vendor sites to get a look at a customer’s vehicle search history. Understanding the customer’s credit information ahead of time is another way to encourage customers to purchase a vehicle they can afford, while also not having to spend time entering this information.
Provide Information about F&I Tools Online
Another great way to simplify the F&I process is by offering products like service agreements, gap insurance, and specific part protections online for purchase. This gives dealers another chance to fully explain the benefits of these products (before customers even enter the dealership), and also include testimonials from customers who purchased these items. It doesn’t mean F&I professionals cannot still promote these services in-person, but the transaction itself could happen online.
Keep Customers Occupied During Wait Times (While Also Reducing Them)
Once customers decide on a car they like, it is typical for customers to have to wait for the F&I professional to meet them and begin the process. This move increases anxiety and dissatisfaction. F&I professionals should focus on diminishing these wait times to keep the momentum moving. A great idea from this article suggested that F&I managers come to greet customers immediately and provide them with a tablet that allows them to find out more information about what is next.
The F&I process has an image problem. It is seen as long and complicated, and as a result, customers are leaving dealerships with a less than favorable view. This not only makes it less likely they will come back to purchase another car, but they will probably hold off on buying F&I products as well. The F&I process is a critical component to improving the overall customer experience. Every dealer’s goal should be to create a faster, more transparent, and more straightforward process for customers. Those that can do this will set themselves far above the pack.