|One of the most common complaints about the F&I office is, “It takes too long.” This refrain is often heard from both salespeople and dealership management. Of course, there is the customer, whose displeasure translates to poor CSI scores for the dealership. Poor CSI scores can affect everything from bonus money to additional franchises being withheld.|
Everyone agrees that being in the F&I office too long is a bad thing, but a trip to the F&I office is another opportunity to make money. Let’s discuss why too much time in the F&I office is bad and how you can change it.
Salespeople don’t like to have customers in F&I too long because they fear that the F&I manager is grinding the customers and a sale may be lost because of it. This rarely happens, but the fear of loss is still there. Another reason is that until the customer emerges from F&I, the salesperson can’t take another up.
Sales management doesn’t like customers waiting in the F&I office too long because it often backs up other deals. Again, leading to CSI issues. To fix things, first you have to understand the concept of “customer time” and “dealership time.”
“Dealership time” is the hours (or days) the customer spends on your lot and in your showroom negotiating a deal. The customer is focused on the outcome of buying a car and largely indifferent to how much of the dealership’s time he takes up. Once the deal is consummated, the customer shifts into “customer time,” and the customer now wants to get out of the dealership as fast as possible. In this time zone, the F&I process becomes an obstacle to the customer. It’s keeping the customer from driving his or her new car. Time begins to slow down and nerves begin to fray.
What is the right amount of time for a customer to spend in the F&I office? I’ve asked many managers that question and the number that keeps coming up is 30 minutes. So, assuming this is the right number, let's look at how you can give yourself better CSI scores and more time for selling. We’ll do this by shifting the customer’s perception of how long he/she is spending in F&I.
First of all, what is your F&I manager doing with his or her 30 minutes? If your dealership is like most, customers are introduced to the F&I manager in the F&I manager’s office. In this scenario, the F&I manager has no qualifying information to present the proper products and has no rapport with the customer. So, the first five to 10 minutes are spent gathering information and building rapport. This can eat up 30 percent of prime selling time. When the time is used up, F&I managers often stop selling. They will secure the financing, sell a vehicle service contract and then stop because they’ve run out of time. If they continue, they risk bad CSI scores and customer complaints.
A better way is to keep the customer on “dealership time” as long as possible. This means having your F&I manager meet customers on the sales floor, where they’ve been for quite awhile and where they are comfortable. The customer sees the F&I manager visit as part of the deal negotiation. As such, the customer is more lenient about spending five to 10 minutes chatting with the F&I manager. The customer perceives that he is not in a selling situation so he is more forthcoming. The F&I manager can establish rapport and ask scripted qualifying questions.
The benefit to this approach is that when the customer reaches the F&I office and transitions into “customer time,” the F&I manager will not need to establish rapport. Also, the F&I manager will have already loaded the menu with products and services that fit the customer’s needs and wants. This leaves more selling time, which may translate into better CSI scores and higher profits as more products are sold.
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