One in three Americans would rather go to the DMV, do their taxes, or sit in the middle airplane seat than go through the process of buying a vehicle, reports Edmunds.
In addition, Autotrader reveals less than 1% of car buyers like the current car-buying process, and 66% percent of car shoppers are much more likely to buy from a dealership that offers their preferred experience.
There are many steps in the car-buying process that need to be improved to provide that preferred experience. But one of the biggest opportunities to meet changing customer expectations is the F&I process, where customers spend more than one-quarter of their total time at the dealership when buying a vehicle, according to Cox Automotive’s Emotional Connections Study and Car Buyer Journey studies.
We’re in the Age of the Customer: Today’s consumers are empowered to do their own research and question the businesses they choose to patronize.
For the F&I process, this means customers want the chance to educate themselves on products before they make a purchase. According to the Cox Automotive Finance & Insurance study, nearly two-thirds of consumers are more likely to purchase F&I products if they can learn about those products on their own time.
We’re now several years into the Age of the Customer, a business cycle that many experts estimate will last about 20 years, so don’t wait to change.
Here are three areas your F&I process can improve upon to meet customer expectations.
1. Make the most of their time
According to an IHS Automotive Buyer Influence study, the amount of time it takes to complete a purchase is the number one frustration of car buyers, so don’t leave your customers waiting idly.
Instead of leaving customers with a cup of coffee and a Time magazine while they wait, empower them to educate themselves on your F&I offerings. Enable a better experience for customers with a tablet loaded with the F&I product and pricing info they’re interested in, so they can spend their wait time researching products that matter to them.
2. Make it interactive
When your customers enter the F&I office, they’ve already done a lot of work. They’ve likely already been at your store for about two hours, and they probably spent about 15 hours researching vehicles before they even stepped foot in your showroom, according to the Car Buyer Journey study.
So, to keep them interested in your offerings, your F&I presentation has to be interactive and engaging. Instead of black-and-white text on a page, engage your customers with photos, videos, and easy-to-understand descriptions of your products presented on a device, such as a tablet, with which they can interact.
3. Make it personal
Nine out of 10 consumers prefer a unique, personalized car-buying journey, according to the Cox Automotive Future of Digital Retail Study, so don’t give them a generic F&I presentation.
Instead, show your customers you understand their unique needs with a unique presentation, built around the specific vehicle they are purchasing.
Make improvements in each of these three areas of your F&I process, and in no time you’ll see happier customers—and higher profits—during our current Age of the Customer.
Jason Barrie is the vice president and general manager of Dealertrack F&I at Cox Automotive Inc.