How F&I can play a part in increasing customer retention


“How do we keep ‘em coming back?”

It’s a very important question for anyone working at a dealership.

Customer retention is one of the most important priorities throughout dealership operations. Service, parts, and sales all rely on repeat customers and keeping the customers from ‘cradle to grave’ as they say. In a perfect world, you sell them the car, they come back for all of their service and parts needs, and when they need another car, they come back to your store.

In all that focus, though, one department rarely gets mentioned when it comes to the part they play in raising customer retention – F&I.

Every car buyer, new or used, has to come through F&I to complete their transaction. No buyer can skip this part and yet no one talks much about the role they play in helping to make sure buyers come back to their dealership for all of the sales, service, and parts needs.

Here are a few ways that F&I managers can do their part to help increase customer retention right away (and may add a nice boost to PVR, too). 

The Tried & True Service Walkthrough

If your F&I staff is not already doing this with each deal, give it a try a couple of days during the week when they have a little more time. Have them walk the buyers in for a meet & greet with the service advisors. Talk up the quick turnaround and how all the mechanics have passed rigorous OEM certifications. Mention that all aftermarket protections can be handled here as well. One-stop shop.

Buyers hearing all of this and meeting the staff helps reinforce the sense that they SHOULD bring their new car back here for everything it needs. After all, they are the expert in the car, right? Right.

It’s a simple and quick thing to do that can yield big dividends in the years to come.

Related: Increase Service Retention with These Innovative Service Contract Features

Offer a ‘Service Package’

Bundles are becoming more popular in F&I. Offering complimentary products under one package price is easier than you think and if done right, it increases customer retention.

For example, a ‘service package’ could include a VSC, tire & wheel, and prepaid maintenance (PPM) all for one price. This helps on a few levels – higher penetration for all products included, all claims for service/repair would require an inspection at the dealership anyway, and it has the buyer feel as though you are offering a special ‘total car’ protection that other stores may not offer. Menu selling is tough but made even tougher by overwhelming a buyer with a huge list of products. Make it simple and create 2 or 3 standard packages and watch retention climb. Buyers will feel obligated to come back if the perception is that they were given a great deal to do it.

Having your buyers come back to the dealership for some small repair under a protection plan also helps the service advisors get easy upsells for other services that may be needed. Win-win.

Speaking of Packages, Brand Them.

Seriously, this is one of the easiest changes that a dealership can make that can have a noticeable effect on just about everything, but especially F&I.

From a marketing perspective, it’s likely your store already has a ‘brand’ – a unique way they position themselves in the local market. It’s a tone, a voice, and a vibe that the store has that is consistent throughout the dealership. That brand should carry over to F&I, too.

If your store offers a PPM, brand it by calling it something special like ‘The XYZ Advantage Protection Plan’ or the ‘ABC Appearance Guard’. Something that makes the buyer feel like they are getting a special protection or program that no one else in the market is offering. It’s branded to your store and what does that mean?

Customer retention goes through the roof.

It’s a mental pull back to the dealership when they need any service or parts. Your dealership name is on the products, so they must come to you for that service or repair. That is the power of branding.

Branding F&I products also increases the value proposition for the dealership in general as it answers the ‘Why Buy Here’ question among local shoppers.

A Final Thought…

In this new world of selling cars during a pandemic that doesn’t seem likely to go away any time soon, customer retention can make or break a struggling dealership. F&I can do their part to help increase the chances that buyers come back for services and maintenance.

Plus, getting them back in for service and parts means they are also more likely to buy their next car from you, too. Doing all these little things can bring big results at a time when any good news is welcome.

Related: Service Director Manny Escalon on Customer Retention During the Pandemic (video)

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

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This has been a JBF Business Media production.