Don’t Keep Them Waiting in F&I—Go Digital
Consumers, especially millennials, demand faster interactions, but still expect business engagements to be satisfying and transparent
A New York Times article from several years ago noted that Americans spend billions of hours a year waiting in line. No doubt car buyers backed up on a busy Saturday waiting in the F&I office were counted in this data.
Dealerships today work hard to move customers through the buying process faster. As one of our studies has shown, shaving even 15 minutes off the F&I process makes customers feel better about the experience.
The wait time is only one variable in customers’ overall perception of their experience, however. There’s a psychology involved with waiting.
Customers tolerate longer waits if the last moments of that experience are positive. Further, they’ll grumble less if they’re kept preoccupied while the clock ticks.
Test this psychology yourself. Set a kettle on the stove to boil and wait for it, or set the kettle and check your favorite news feed or texts on your smartphone while you wait. Which experience do you prefer?
Few people remember the words that are said in a conversation or a transaction, but most people remember how they feel about the experience. Occupying customers during a wait makes time “feel faster.”
Dealerships that use digital F&I platforms leverage this psychology to their favor—and their customers’. When transactions are smooth and processes easy and fast, potential irritants evaporate.
Science has revealed that pleasing activities can release the chemical dopamine in the brain. One emotion this hormone creates is a sense of happiness. Happier customers not only tend to buy more, they return again to buy again, whether for vehicle services or another vehicle.
Don’t dismiss this as just millennial-aged buyers being impatient—it may not be the case. It’s generally true, however, that individuals born before 1986 grew up in a world where manual processes were the norm, and it was accepted that some transactions and processes just took longer than others.
For consumers born later—into a digital world—transactions and processes are expected to be fast, streamlined, and easy. For consumers of all ages, studies show that slowing down, standing in line, and feeling like you’re wasting time makes you irritable, impatient, and may even fire off pain receptors in your brain.
Although consumers demand faster interactions, they continue to expect transactions and business engagements to be more satisfying and transparent. They want a more intuitive in-store experience and a seamless online experience they control—and they better be fast.
What does this mean for our industry and your dealership? Dealerships that employ processes and tools that reduce time, speed processes, and meet the demands of the modern consumer have a huge advantage. Creating that fast, high-end push-button user experience will create conditions for better results.
In the automotive retail space, producers and agents are already helping their clients understand, appreciate, and use some of the leading technologies that help deliver a faster, more transparent and often expectation-busting experience.
An article on Sparkmag.com recently tackled this subject, saying, “When customer satisfaction is the goal, timeliness is one of the most heavily weighted factors in the company-customer relationship. Companies must strive to improve every aspect of timeliness within their capabilities.”
The point about examining internal processes is applicable to the car business. The article continued, “The first step for improving timeliness is the simple process of putting yourself in the customer’s mindset. This means walking through the process a customer experiences, and identifying where timeliness issues show up, and where the customer’s time is wasted. Don’t forget to look at the internal factors within your own delivery systems.”
With that in mind, consider the following systems at your dealership. Are they creating delays in your ability to meet customer expectations?
Your engagement systems
Get customers engaged in the F&I process while they’re still shopping your dealership online, and in the showroom as the deal moves along. Online F&I engagement tools, many which dealerships have been using for years, start this process, and the online experience lets shoppers feel more in control of events.
Online engagement systems should include online credit features, rate and payment calculators, out-of-state vehicle titling and registration capability, and aftermarket product catalogs that offer shopping and e-commerce capabilities.
In the showroom, these systems can include interactive sales tools such as tablets, video, customer surveys, kiosks, gamification reality, virtual reality, and engagement media that explain product features and benefits in compelling ways.
Your delivery systems
To what degree does your website enable shoppers to make their own choices—or at minimum, review F&I information—online? Can shoppers purchase service contracts, and add tire and wheel or other packages via website e-commerce functionality?
Is the F&I process streamlined, automated, and focused on presenting clarity, building confidence, and answering questions? When these tools deliver speed and link consumers’ expectations to the act of purchasing vehicles and aftermarket products, they connect the value of each product to how it enhances customers’ lifestyle goals.
Your closing systems
It used to be a dealership’s engagement, delivery, and closing system were one: the F&I professional in the seat across from the buyer.Delivery used to be by just the F&I manager, but today is one of several ways a dealership must engage customers.
First, and it might seem obvious: Be sure F&I personnel are well-trained, their tactics and handling skills updated and polished, and they’re more customer-focused than pay-plan focused—which could mean putting different people in the F&I seat. Second, put all the products you sell on a menu you present to each and every customer.
With consumers—both online and in your store—demanding faster interactions, they continue to expect transactions and business engagements to be more satisfying and transparent. They want a more intuitive in-store experience and a seamless online experience they control.
If you don’t offer them, you’ll create the opposite of happier customers.
Jim Maxim, Jr. is president of MaximTrak Technologies, a provider of digital F&I platforms for dealers. He is an Agent Entrepreneur 40 Under 40 leader, 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.