How to Be a Connected Concierge With Centralized Customer Profiles
Is it possible to give your F&I customers the same engagement and service they get at the Apple Store?
A friend remarked to me how emergency health care has radically changed. Upon a recent visit to an urgent care facility, all of his information had been digitized, and the people there had his previous records at their fingertips.
They knew his allergies, medications, and previous experiences. It was an in-and-out situation that was surprisingly efficient, frictionless, and ironically, pain-free.
To think you can receive meaningful health care in a shopping center at a fraction of the cost of a hospital: Not too long ago—and to this day in some places, I’m sure—a parade of various doctors, residents, and nurses inspected you in what was basically a stall, asking you the same sets of questions over and over.
Could it be that the days of have to repeat yourself to yet another person are coming to a close?
Technology helps us conduct commerce in many new ways, and when it also helps us “touch” consumers intellectually and emotionally, everyone wins.
An Inc. magazine article noted that businesses that are responsive to customer questions, complaints, and other needs can gain a competitive advantage. The article added that new technologies help businesses anticipate customer needs, tailor business processes to best serve them, and improve efficiency while lowering costs.
Retail role model: Apple Store
Imagine a store where the best products are available and great personnel, using connected technology, bring it all together into an effective transaction that meets all the needs of the customer.
In-person staff that is well-informed, fast, and accurate not only locates the products needed, but also brings to the table unexpected benefits. They engage customers about their life plans, pitfalls, and expectations, and before you know it, the transaction is complete.
In this model, customers get the best products, a great experience, and the confidence they made the right decision. It happens daily at each Apple Store.
The store’s clerks, called Apple Geniuses, are equipped with mobile devices to meet customers wherever they are in the store to engage, create, and access accounts, and develop a real-world profile of the shoppers’ needs in the moment.
The profile they create is stored virtually for maximum efficiency, and is accessible to anyone else who the customer engages with. No more repeating, and no one individual having to remember all the details. The information is accessible in a reliable system designed to deliver superior customer service experiences.
Is it possible to provide your F&I customers this same engagement and service?
Tech and touch in F&I
The truth is that dealerships do the same thing every day through relationship-building and manual processes. Salespeople ask questions, start a conversation, and then the customer discloses critical details to inform the deal about to take shape.
Meanwhile, there are many amazing F&I managers who know exactly how to take those details and work them into a presentation, along with deal structure, vehicle information, paperwork, and many other calculations. This results in a presentation that is effective, fast, and compliant.
But it is a lot of heavy lifting to be done manually while the customer waits . . . and waits. What happens when you apply flexible technology with effective people?
All that heavy lifting is automated. The process is streamlined. The potential for errors, missed details, and misunderstanding is decreased. Consistency and good habits form.
Best of all, F&I managers can wield tools that let them focus on the customer. It is not a question of technology or people, but the potential for greater success with technology and people.
Some people might be tempted to dismiss what I’m describing as “just a survey” or “just a menu.” But that’s like interpreting the word “bike” as a child’s bicycle when I mean a Harley-Davidson.
The truth is, you’re already asking the right questions during your process. You don’t need to make an arbitrary change; instead, I’m suggesting that you would benefit from recording the customers’ answers that are used multiple times and ways in your presentation.
Before customers meet with your F&I department, they’ve already disclosed information about themselves. You have insight into their lifestyle needs, their thoughts about the different aftermarket products you sell, and the risk triggers you’ll want to help them set aside.
If those answers were at your fingertips and then synthesized with other data points that are automatically calculated and placed into interactive sales aids, how much more effective would your F&I presentation be?
The connected concierge
Leaders in our industry are moving to a digital ecosystem where the F&I transaction is connected to a customer profile that converges during the sale. F&I managers equipped with this data can make precise needs-based sales presentations, which sells more products.
Envision, at your fingertips, all the resources you need to deliver in an all-in-one experience to customers. You have the tools necessary—and immediately at hand—to engage with them earlier in their aftermarket-products shopping curve, from your in-store e-menu products presentation to e-contracting, and more.
It’s one system, with one set of integrated, seamless tools to engage customers more fully and transparently. It gives them greater control over the process, while giving you more time to sell products.
Can you calculate and collect this important information manually? Sure, but why would you when you can benefit from an automated, flexible process that coalesces everything you need while you focus on building a relationship with your customer?
Jim Maxim, Jr. is president of MaximTrak, a RouteOne company, chief digital officer for RouteOne, and a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers. He is an F&I visionary recognized by CIO Review magazine, a frequent panelist and speaker at various F&I conferences and summits, and a contributor to automotive retail media about evolving F&I technologies. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.