burnout

There are few jobs within a dealership that have more inherent stress and burnout than the F&I manager. Back in the ‘stone age’, the position was all about pushing as much product as possible, holding the most rate you could get away with, and dealing with a lot less paperwork than is required today all the while working 10-12 hours days. The stress was there but it was somehow much easier to work through.

Not anymore.

Compliance requirements, longer hours, shrinking margins on vehicles, and increased buyer awareness of the car buying process (including F&I products) all make for a radically different environment for your F&I managers to work within. Burnout and turnover have been increasing for the last few years and dealerships must scramble to help keep the F&I staff intact, especially if it is producing strong numbers.

Here are a few ways that your store can help not only recognize burnout within the F&I staff, but also to help reduce it…

How to See Burnout Coming

Consider a weekly individual meeting with each F&I manager. Check in, ask how they are feeling about how the month is going and ask if they have any concerns. It’s a remarkable thing to watch an employee be asked by upper management how they are feeling about their job and being sincerely asked for feedback or suggestions. It’s a simple but powerful way to spot burnout coming before it becomes the kind of issue that cause you to lose a valued employee.

burnoutAnother way to spot burnout is to check deals and paperwork. Has it become sloppy? One of the ways burnout can manifest is how efficient they are with the mundane tasks they have to perform. Increase stress can lead to increased errors.

Look for an increase in chargebacks, too. Burnout in F&I can result in desperate or high-pressure sales tactics to increase PRU in an effort to make higher commissions. That almost never ends well with buyers after they leave the store.

Is the F&I manager increasingly isolated among the other staff? Has their mood shifted either with buyers in the office or without? Are they argumentative with sales staff or managers? If so, burnout could explain it.

Easier-than-you-think Ways to Help

  • Management Recognition: F&I managers are not always held in such high esteem at many stores. Several that I knew long ago felt that they were the least respected in the dealership even though they were tasked with making a big chunk of the profits. Consider a monthly recognition of F&I achievement to help boost morale. Highlighting a job well done goes a long way to making staff feel appreciated for the hard work they do. Find ways to let them know they are a valued member of the store and their hard work is crucial to the stores success.

  • Encourage Self-Improvement: Now this may seem a little ‘woo-woo’ but in the age of self-care and self-improvement, it would be helpful for a stressed-out F&I manager to be encouraged to do whatever is necessary to get themselves in the right headspace to be successful. Whether it is a recommended book or online video or even a local workshop with an emphasis on handling stress and being your best (and most successful) self, all can be a helpful buffer to deal with burnout.

  • Careful Scheduling: For as long as there have been F&I managers, there have been long hours and a ‘bell-to-bell’ environment. Some high-volume stores have late hours and F&I staff are expected to be there until the last human has left the lot. Many have left the business simply because they never felt they had time for a life outside of the dealership. 

Consider a staggered schedule or offering ‘comp time’ if a deal runs too late one night by giving them a few hours off the next morning. Give the F&I staff the time they need to recharge and be better focused for the next days deals. If you have enough F&I managers in the department, this should be easy to work out. Too many 10-12 hours days are not good for anyone.

F&I managers have more expectation on them than ever before. They carry a heavier load for profits, they are constantly having to keep up with ever-changing regulations, and buyers are more skeptical than ever about products offered.

By watching for the signs carefully and by being proactive in helping your F&I managers manage the increased stress, you can have a happier and more productive staff than will feel that upper management truly cares about them as more than a profit center.

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Kristine Cain is a freelance writer who loves the car business, hiking long trails, and the Steelers (not necessarily in that order). After finishing a degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, she got her first taste of the dealer world working in the service department of a high volume Honda store. Warned early on that the car business would ‘get in her blood’, it did and Kristine made the leap into F&I departments at several stores around the Washington DC area and later to an automotive information company in dealer sales. A veteran of over 20 years in B2B sales to dealers, she leverages that knowledge to help write within the dealer market. Kristine lives in Holly Springs, NC with her husband and family.

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