Showing Some Love for Your Customers in F&I

Customers are the lifeblood of every business, which certainly includes Automotive. Every day we live and breathe Ups – our customers. With the internet being the first place people go to shop and research, and with many dealers saturating the internet with “the lowest cost this, the best price that,” it is becoming harder and harder to drive traffic to our own dealerships.

And even harder to keep a customer loyal, because the market is so “lowest price”-driven. In the end, there can be only one lowest-priced dealer, lowest-priced car, cheapest brand, “we will beat any price” dealer. There can be only one!

If we want to keep a customer’s loyalty, our focus has to be different.

Let’s face it, customers aren’t fond of dealerships. The very thought of having to walk into a dealership to go “through the process” gives most customers anxiety. Generation after generation, decade after decade, our reputation has taken a beating. Perception of the car-buying experience keeps buying a car ranked among the lowest things on people’s preferred “to do” list.

What I have found is this: Customers generally love the product (the vehicle) but hate the experience. And then there’s their perception of F&I. Customers not only hate the experience, but dread the F&I department. To them, F&I is just an office where they go after they negotiate a price and a payment for their new car or truck, only to be taken to “that office back there” to be told that the interest rate and payment are higher than what was negotiated in the showroom.

Let’s face it, customers aren’t fond of dealerships. The very thought of having to walk into a dealership to go “through the process” gives most customers anxiety. Generation after generation, decade after decade, our reputation has taken a beating. Perception of the car-buying experience keeps buying a car ranked among the lowest things on people’s preferred “to do” list.

What I have found is this: Customers generally love the product (the vehicle) but hate the experience. And then there’s their perception of F&I. Customers not only hate the experience, but dread the F&I department. To them, F&I is just an office where they go after they negotiate a price and a payment for their new car or truck, only to be taken to “that office back there” to be told that the interest rate and payment are higher than what was negotiated in the showroom.

Whether this is a reality in your store or not, like it or not, this is how many customers perceive “those finance people.”

This is why many customers do everything they can to avoid going into the finance office. They will go to their credit unions. They will dig into their bank accounts and pay cash for a vehicle, even with interest rates being little or nothing on automotive loans. Some customers will even demand that a salesperson bring their finance paperwork to their house or place of business to sign, all in an effort to avoid dealing with the finance department.

Like I said at the beginning, customers are our lifeblood, and that includes F&I too. We need customer loyalty, and F&I has to be an active participant in creating that loyalty.

When it comes to F&I and the way to win and keep customers loyal to our dealerships, the solution is this: You must “out experience” your competition!

F&I managers have to understand that the last time a customer bought a vehicle, they went through an old, outdated, dry process in the finance department. The valuable products that F&I managers sell weren’t sold to the customer the last time they took delivery; rather, they were pushed on them by a finance manager who used a menu to explain what a customer would forfeit by not selecting a column on a sheet of paper, instead of building massive value in their products.

The customer was dealt with in a dry manner by a finance manager who made them wait too long to bring them into their office. The customer’s anxiety the last time they dealt with the old, outdated, “same as the last time” F&I process was through the roof. Very likely, the customer couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Needless to say, if the customer bought from that store again it would only be because the product was too cheap to pass on – not out of loyalty.

To make a difference, F&I managers must always keep in mind the customer’s needs, perceptions, and experiences while in the store and F&I office. That’s priority number one. Attitude, body language, and a customer-first approach is where we begin, followed by strong time management: being very aware of the customer’s wait time, and being expedient on our end.

We must be willing to be fully transparent with customers and give them all the information they seek, without reservation. We have to remember, F&I is a mystery to most customers. We have to consider the customer’s anxiety and edginess when they come back to our office.

A polite, courteous, friendly, value-building approach is the name of customer loyalty in F&I. I call it “rolling out the red carpet” for the customer. When this is the focus, and “out experiencing” the competition in F&I is the goal, then customer loyalty is the result.

Shaka Dyson

Latest posts by Shaka Dyson (see all)

Let Us Know What You Think