Most of us, truth be told, don’t like being held accountable. The word accountability can sound negative, like punishment. We don’t cozy up to it without difficulty—we need a good reason to do so because people love wiggle room.
But then again, wiggle room can lead to problems, especially in business practice. Some businesses tolerate carelessness and inconsistency when business is booming, but the reality is that wiggle room does nothing to eliminate waste, discover new sources of revenue, or establish practices to weather leaner times.
A “wiggle room mentality” can put dealerships at risk.
Too often during the F&I process, especially during busy days, we presume, jump to conclusions, and rush. Skipped steps and product descriptions given by rote shortchange customers, so they may not hear about or be able to buy the products they could use.
F&I personnel are of paramount value to their employers because they get deals handled and funded, aftermarket product–revenue generated, and happy customers delivered.
General managers cannot afford to assume all is progressing well in F&I, however. Minus careful monitoring—of activities, presentations, products offered, and compliance with best practices and legislation—people tend to assume the best.
But experience and Murphy’s Law says we must prevent the worst from happening. Accountability means we inspect what we expect.
Digital F&I platforms automate accountability processes, build gateways, and employ tools that ensure smoother, consistent, and more engaged F&I transactions.
The U.S. government has a great definition of accountability: to be held answerable for accomplishing a goal or assignment.
We should also hold every decision and investment, whether regarding people or technology, accountable to quantifiable answers when asked the important question, “What are you contributing to the business?”
Examples of accountability
Throughout the dealership, we now see processes and practices come under the scrutiny of consistent and objective accountability. For example, in showroom events, the sales board may still hold front-and-center attention in the break room, but GMs and dealers get their essential facts in real time from their showroom ups, and lead volume and conversion data from automated showroom tools.
These tools also bring tighter structure and performance outcomes to variable operations. In progressive reconditioning departments, GMs and their managers receive detailed insight from recon-workflow software that informs them about who is doing what, where each vehicle is, and how efficient the process.
In the service department, technologies help managers identify weaknesses and opportunities in tech performance, bay utilization, and advisor upsell activities.
Not all dealerships use these accountability tools. Traditional, manual, and paper-driven processes still rule in many variable and fixed operations. We see this same pattern in F&I. Some dealerships continue to use paper menus and contracting practices used for years.
Changing these habits can cause frustration for employees. Such resistance too often prevents employers from establishing accountability processes that deliver a better customer experience and improve the dealership’s competitiveness, innovation, and growth.
F&I process and accountability
For many dealers, F&I process accountability isn’t as accountable as it has to be today.
How are you monitoring, measuring, and comparing outcomes? Ideally, you should be able to pull up data from the DMS and pore over those reports, or click a mouse and have dynamic dashboard-status oversight of every transaction, every individual who worked on deals, and precise intelligence about their skills.
Also, critical dealership data can be sent to your phone daily so you don’t have to wait until month-end to check the health of your operations. Then you have the data you need to encourage, motivate, and correct, and ensure everyone is answerable about his or her assignment.
The payoff? Nearly two million F&I dealer transactions using digital e-menu accountability technology (versus no menu) reveal it drives per-vehicle retail lifts of $538, and 52% product-penetration lifts. It also benefits consumers by matching them with products that best match their lifestyle and protects their investment.
Ask yourself these questions about how you monitor and measure accountability through your F&I process:
- When do you engage customers about the aftermarket products you offer?
- What does that step look like—who does it, when, and what are next steps?
- How do you gather lifestyle and behavior insight about customers so you can better match their interests and values to the aftermarket products you offer?
- How are you presenting these products: online, even before consumers have decided on your dealership, when with sales associates, or only after they step into the F&I office?
- Are product lists and descriptions on paper, or are they presented using dynamic digital tools that feature interactive graphics and videos that customers primarily control?
- Does your process monitor and provide reporting on these steps? Does it report on activity per transaction—number of products offered, those accepted and declined, and PVR and product penetration per deal?
- How do you ensure your staff is presenting in a compliant fashion to every customer every time, and be confident you are properly safeguarding customer information?
Accountability technology is not meant to hamper the vital role of the F&I professional, whose skills at reading people and presenting product value will remain integral. The landscape has been changing rapidly, however.
Dealerships are increasingly putting individuals into F&I roles with less training and experience than those they replaced, and the customers they engage with now expect a different F&I experience.
Improving your F&I process, accountability, and performance outcomes is not complicated. The technology now makes accountability push-button easy.
Effective accountability, automated with state-of-the-art technology, makes the F&I department stronger, and lets you sleep at night knowing what should have been done has been done.
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 [email protected].
From 2003 to 2019, he helmed MaximTrak, a digital F&I platform, which he founded and sold to RouteOne LLC in 2016. Until late 2019, he continued aspresident of MaximTrak and as chief digital officer for RouteOne, bringing to market solutions trusted by dealers around the world.
Jim is widely regarded as a thought leader in business technologies and wealth-building strategies for entrepreneurs and F o rtune 500 companies alike.
He is a graduate of the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business of Babson College, Babson Park, MA. He is married, with two children.
Latest posts by Jim Maxim, Jr.
- A Better 5-Step Plan to Product Sales Success - March 9, 2020
- Plan, People and Profitability: A Lesson in Chicken - January 12, 2020
- Digitize Your Dealership Operations Now to Be Ready for 2020—and Beyond - October 12, 2018