Without a Workflow Process, Your F&I Department Is Just Winging It
F&I designed around a workflow process is more efficient, transparent, and profitable
In October 1948, two brothers closed their hamburger restaurant, fired their carhops, streamlined their menu, reorganized their kitchen, and invented the Speedee Service System, which emphasized speed, low prices, and high volume.
Their redesigned drive-in opened a few months later and was innovative for its day, requiring the customers to learn how to serve themselves by placing orders. This new workflow changed the McDonald brothers, and their eponymous burger business, forever.
BusinessDictionary.com defines workflow as a progression of steps, tasks, events, or interactions that make a work process and that adds or creates value to an organization. Our days consist of workflows, especially at our vocation, where we produce some work product at the end of a series of tasks.
It’s essential that the tasks we have to do conform to a structured workflow—first this, then this, and then that. Correctly followed, an activity designed around a workflow is more efficient, transparent, and profitable.
Workflow process in automotive retail
We’ve gotten away from workflows in much of what we do in the car business.
Every customer used to be taken through a specific workflow process: meet and greet, needs interview, vehicle selection and walkaround, and test drive.
This workflow was designed to engage the customer in the vehicle experience, and to clarify customer wants, needs, and capabilities. By getting shoppers behind the steering wheel and on the road, we got them emotionally committed to the purchase.
This sales workflow was not a guarantee of success, but it worked well to transition shoppers from consumers to buyers.
Workflow as a competitive advantage
So although we recognize that dealers have used workflows for a long time, it’s just recently that as a discipline, workflow is being addressed and leveraged as a competitive advantage.
Here’s an example of what I mean by this: Even though automotive service departments has always used workflows to get work in and out, a lack of structured workflow processes left some outcomes to chance.
Hence, technology innovators developed automation tools that structured service process, which organized everything from service drive appointment schedules and shop loading to structured inspection processes and automated service follow-up.
A structured workflow moves items, processes, and people in such a way that almost every time, B follows A before the work moves to C.
Each step of the workflow can be monitored and measured, so you know with certainty what is working well and where bottlenecks and delays might be causing problems and loss of opportunities.
Workflow in F&I
The most engaging F&I process has a workflow to it as well.
When the steps in this process are done sequentially (an order you define) and none are missed, the F&I manager increases his or her chances of delivering a more thorough, consistent, and compelling presentation that helps with compliance.
When this happens, buyers also purchase more aftermarket products—and report having a more engaging experience.
We see flexible, customized workflows built into online car-buying platforms: a series of defined actions that move consumers from shopper to prospect to purchaser.
Online F&I platforms, which can be part of such an online workflow or engage customers for the first time in the showroom, utilize workflow structures as well.
For instance, they connect consumers and dealership F&I departments earlier in the buying cycle when embedded into OEM, dealer, and third-party websites. They engage and capture consumers through their shopping journey via mobile or showroom experiences to deliver a complete, transparent, and efficient digital buying solution.
We know the metrics validate the benefit of using F&I workflow strategies to improve aftermarket product sales and penetration while also increasing PVR.
F&I managers may, at first, balk at the idea of using a workflow structure with customers, but if they are not accountable to such a format, their personal opinion and judgments can prevent a thorough presentation (which also helps dealers manage compliance obligations) from being given.
If you think this doesn’t happen in your F&I office, think again. I have been in the car business for decades and know the stories.
For example, consider a prosperous-looking couple sitting in F&I. The manager starts to mention service agreements or GAP or some other product—then looks again at the buyers.
“You won’t need this,” manager says, turning the desktop monitor back away from the customer or filing the product information in the drawer. On the other hand, because an individual might appear unable to afford a purchase is no guarantee that’s true, or an individual’s personal assumptions are valid.
An F&I workflow system helps ensure that every F&I presentation includes everything your dealership has to sell, and lets the process do its work.
Another benefit F&I workflow delivers is a quicker in-store F&I experience.
Perhaps the best example of this is the e-menu, which takes the aftermarket products presentation, organizes it into a single flow of the various products you sell, and automatically adjusts the buyer’s payment based on the products selected or deleted.
An F&I workflow also provides real-time reporting. Numbers by themselves tell only a partial story. Workflow accountability processes offer clear insight into training and development needs.
For a dealership battling margin compression, an F&I workflow platform is an essential piece of equipment. Look how well mastering workflow worked out for the McDonald brothers.
Jim Maxim, Jr. is president of MaximTrak, a RouteOne company, and chief digital officer for RouteOne, 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 email@example.com.