Ready for the New Year

Ready for the New Year
Helping car shoppers check their potential for a specific financial product prior to a full credit check is becoming a common practice in some markets.

As we say farewell to another year, and look forward to 2019, are you keeping pace with changing customer expectations?

What a year it has been! Change has always been a looming presence in the auto industry, but this time around, more so than ever.

That’s why it’s important for F&I managers to stay up to date, and the best way to do that is to find the right trainer by looking for programs that are flexible and offer different types of training, such as e-learning, in-class and in-dealership. A personalized approach is best, where you can decide the duration of the coaching session, depending on what you want to accomplish.

The success of tailor-made training is that it focuses on something that’s going on in your specific dealership, including research that has been done ahead of time to develop an agenda that suits all your needs. The same is true of matching a trainer’s philosophy and beliefs, to make sure that their approach is consistent with yours.

Training will help you stay up-to-date with the newest technologies, and sharpen your skills. Are you presenting menus to customers with every single product and service available? That can take up a lot of valuable time and energy, as opposed to getting to the items of most importance to that customer.

Clean track records

In the U.S., regulators keep an eye on products such as credit repair, identity theft protection, vehicle etching, undercoating and rustproofing, and others. Even though Canadian business offices are not under the same scrutiny, it’s a good idea to deal only with trusted, well-established vendors with a clean track record.

How clear are your contracts? Is everything being stated in a transparent manner? Transparency has become a critical aspect of selling vehicles, and it’s a business manager’s job to be precise and detail-oriented, using language that’s within the realm of the law and ethical standards. It’s also important to ensure you get all the signatures secured at the time of delivery. In fact, it’s a great idea to review and assess your F&I processes and procedures from time to time, to make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks.

For example, how are you dealing with your customers’ personal data? These days, personal data is the currency of the digital world. It’s mandatory to have best practices in place to keep that information safe.

Proactive approach

F&I managers should be taking a proactive approach to keeping customer data secure. Where are your dead deals? Some dealers scan all their deals and put them on a secure server. It may slow down your day but you have a responsibility when you collect the customer’s information.

If you’re putting information in the CRM— especially sensitive data like social insurance numbers—the system itself may not be safeguarded. Some come with a built-in security package, but others do not. It’s critical to check!

According to the TADA, the damage caused by security breaches can be difficult to quantify, but it is usually significant. An affected dealership not only suffers a competitive loss and a loss of business, but also negative media attention, and the unpleasant and costly chance of litigation.

F&I managers and their dealerships need to ensure that proper checks and balances are in place to safeguard customer data. If it fell into the wrong hands, and your dealership took no measures in advance to protect it, the impact to any dealership would be damaging.

Sharp technology game

More so than ever, F&I managers need to keep their technology game sharp. We’re seeing how technology has the potential to revolutionize the way in which auto finance is provided. You’ll pull ahead of the pack by embracing it!

Today, there are online finance platforms linked to credit checking agencies such as Equifax, which give finance managers an easier way of getting pre-approval. It’s known as a “soft search” of a potential car shopper’s credit, giving them a better idea of how much credit they qualify for, which helps them narrow their vehicle search. Helping car shoppers to check their potential for a specific financial product prior to a full credit check is becoming a common practice in both the U.S. and the U.K.

According to a 2015 J.D. Power study, more than half (51 percent) of new vehicle shoppers use a cellphone or tablet to research vehicles online. The study found that these shoppers use the Internet not only to check out vehicles, but also to research finance options. Speed of response, access to wide resources of information and a seamless customer experience all matter greatly to this audience.

Everyone in the business can be thankful that we dodged the tariff bullet. What would we have done? Some of the prep work still has meaning, like the anticipation of more customers with special finance needs. That would have meant becoming stronger in understanding the lending criteria of lenders, which is always a good idea. Plus getting lenders to come into the dealership to do extra training to talk about what type of customer they’re willing to lend to, as well as the different tiers.

To stay relevant, F&I managers need to keep elevating the consumer’s buying experience any way they can, in order to meet the high expectations of today’s and tomorrow’s consumer!

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