F&I Decisioning Tools: The Next Best Thing to a Crystal Ball

Savvy buyers demand informed, individualized engagement to help them make intelligent decisions

If auto retailing had a crystal ball, it could make predictions that would help customers make better choices to provide the best outcomes for the uncertain road ahead. Decisioning tools are the next-best thing to seeing the future.

These tools are software that helps dealers and, in particular, F&I departments better understand risk factors for buyers. They help consumers identify lifestyle and risk concerns that inform their aftermarket-product purchasing decisions.

Decisioning is related to predictive analytics, which software company SAS defines as “the use of data, statistical algorithms, and machine-learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.”

In other words, it can bring real opportunity-identification insight to dealers.

One type of decisioning tool is a smart survey system, which uses behavioral metrics to analyze consumer responses and identify their lifestyle traits. The system “learns” about customers, their habits, priorities, their ownership plans, their budgets, and more.

The resulting information helps consumers—and F&I managers—recognize what aftermarket products would bring the most value to them.

The technology smoothes this interaction because the survey creates a logical, rational, and data-driven argument for protection coverages. Dealers no longer must promote or push products because buyers reach their own conclusions in an educated way.

Compare this approach to the tension of the typical sales dance that often distracts from the value the coverage provides.

In the meantime, survey data helps F&I build personalized packages in an interactive menu that best correlates to consumers’ lifestyles as a bridge to improved customer satisfaction. This science is in increasingly wider use in dealerships today because:

  • It reveals to buyers and F&I staff the customers’ personal risk analysis, and compares it with the protection products offered at the dealership.
  • It tracks customer shopping habits by observing online and social media behaviors and interests, and offers retailers insight on the right time to reach out with new offers, service specials, and other services the customer is most likely to consider purchasing.
  • It helps lenders and credit institutions perform behavioral analytics for credit decisioning.

Possessing practical, real-time intelligence about products a customer is likely to buy can reduce time, friction, and discomfort during the F&I transaction. It helps remove presentation and closing uncertainty for your staff, even well-trained, skilled F&I managers.

In addition, the technology that helps match customers to the right aftermarket products makes less-experienced F&I managers more confident and responsive when discussing protection products with their customers.

For example, drivers today increasingly want to enjoy worry-free vehicle ownership, and many purchase protection products such as service contracts, tire and wheel plans, and gap insurance. F&I decisioning tools help them connect their desire for a worry-free experience to the value in the products sold by the dealership.

Also, given that many consumer have trouble with cash flow in emergency expenditures, purchase-protection products can be a first-line budget defense. An F&I department that helps consumers understand that will sell more products.

A recent Bankrate survey showed why purchasing protection products is a good hedge for most buyers, because, as MarketWatch reported earlier this year, “Approximately 63% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair.”

Decisioning technology used in F&I helps dealers address the concerns of modern consumers who want a worry-free vehicle ownership but are skeptical of the buying process. These tools also gives buyers more perceived control over the process, which they now value more highly than ever.

Dealers who use decisioning tools transform the tone of the buying conversation from one where customers feel like they’re “being sold” to one where they willingly pursue the best solutions to achieve the positive ownership experience they’re seeking.

If the goal in F&I is to sell more products, investment in customer engagement tools is a proper and profitable action. Decisioning tools help dealers meet the needs of today’s savvy buyers who demand informed, individualized engagement that helps them make intelligent decisions.

Jim Maxim, Jr. is president of MaximTrak Technologies, www.maximtrak.com. Reach him at maxim@maximtrak.com.

Jim Maxim, Jr.


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