What Not to Do
Stay away from these F&I faux pas!
Even though Canadian business managers are not subject to the same scrutiny as their American counterparts, keeping the F&I office free of questionable practices is paramount.
Many in the retail sector develop best practices to earn loyalty and customer satisfaction, building relationships and focusing on exceptional customer experience. And when you think about it, that’s just plain good sense anywhere, including the business office.
Here’s a good example: Shying away from new ways of selling, and avoiding the possibilities available with the latest technology, often means having to devote time to training, as well as shifting a mindset that has been stuck in the same gear for years! But it’s well worth it, and inevitably pays back in spades.
Are menus presented to customers with every single product and service that’s available? That can take up a lot of valuable time and energy, to get to the items that are most important to the customer. How many customers want to spend hours in the business office? Does that make them more likely to purchase, or does it discourage them?
For example, why try to sell a product that makes no sense to a particular consumer? If a consumer has opted for a short-term lease, they have no use for an extended warranty–so that shouldn’t even be part of a conversation. Does a product or service have value to the consumer? There’s no point in presenting a product that is completely irrelevant to the customer’s needs, or that they will regret purchasing. Neither makes for a particularly satisfactory customer experience!
In the U.S., regulators keep an eye on products such as credit repair, identity theft protection, vehicle etching, undercoating and rustproofing, credit insurance and GAP insurance, and extended warranties. Again, even though Canadian business offices are not under the eagle eye of any type of watchdog, it’s a good idea to deal only with trusted, well-established vendors with a clean track record.
If it has been a while since business managers had any kind of training or professional development, that may mean they’re out of touch with what’s out there in the market. It may also signify that they’re out of touch with what customers want! Too much time between training or coaching sessions can be unhealthy in the business office, especially in these rapidly changing times.
What’s in that contract? What exactly does it say? Is it stating everything in a clear and transparent manner? It’s a business manager’s job to be precise and detail-oriented, using language that is within the realm of the law and ethical standards. Make sure that the customer has time to review the contents of the contract before being asked to sign it, so they are comfortable with everything.
Speaking of contracts, it’s good to ensure that all signatures are secured at the time of delivery. The amount of paperwork involved in deals can easily trip up a business manager, especially when they’re in a hurry to close a deal or make a delivery.
Take the necessary time to ensure all the signatures are where they need to be. When paperwork isn’t signed, it can mean trouble for the business office. And when the customer has to make a return trip to sign papers, not only does it lack professionalism, it’s also annoying for the customer.
Hiring the right people
When hiring staff for the business office, look for good people. That means being wary of checkered resumes and gaps in employment. Take the time to do the necessary digging and follow up on references. Don’t hire the first reasonably qualified person who walks through your door, just because you’re short-staffed.
Use legitimate, reliable resources to post job openings in your business office–avoid dealing with sketchy head-hunters who may be vague about certain candidates and can’t present testimonials and a lengthy list of satisfied customers– some of whom you should know.
When was the last time F&I processes and procedures were reviewed and assessed? If this isn’t happening on a regular basis, things could be slipping through the cracks. Even the best of us can get sloppy and want to take short-cuts when pressed for time, but that’s no excuse. Subjecting processes to regular audits to ensure that they’re working smoothly and efficiently helps to ensure that the business office as a whole is making the most of its time and people. This will be reflected in the bottom line, not only for the business office, but for the dealer as well.
So the next time you look at your American counterparts and feel a little twinge of sympathy, remember, there may not be an official body overlooking your business office–just your conscience, productivity and profits. That should be motivation enough to revamp your best practices for top notch results!