In your dealership, who is engaging your customers and representing your brand?
Is it the sales staff on the showroom floor? The receptionist? The giant inflatable gorilla?
The answer is “all of the above.” The real consideration, however, should be whether your dealership has sales synergy between its website, social media, showroom, backroom, and service bay.
Many dealers run multiple operations and hope the collective effort will convince customers that they’re trying really hard. Meanwhile, other dealerships implement strategies that digitally interconnect their departments to converge the multiple touch points into a focused customer experience.
After all, on any given day, your dealership’s service department will engage with more individuals than many showrooms will in a month. The opportunity for advisors to contribute to the bottom line is, therefore, prime.
New opportunities to care for customers as you increase profitability are being created with the cross-departmental integration of sales, service, and protection coverage e-menus in service, vehicle data, and customer intelligence.
But wait: What advisor needs another product to sell? Isn’t their time with customers compressed enough already, so why add another item that adds minutes to each interaction, and might offend already-rushed customers?
When it comes to selling aftermarket products like vehicle service contracts, tire and wheel packages, prepaid maintenance, and others—whether in the F&I office or the service lane—taking time to educate, identify needs, and present product solutions almost always sell more of these products.
This is because taking the time to explain helps customers understand and want the value these products bring to their lives. Helping customers protect their investment and save money later builds relationships that reinforce retention.
Spend more time with customers
For years, experts have recommended advisors generate 15 to 20 repair orders (ROs) per day, spending on average 15 minutes with each customer.
On the other hand, service sales trainer Jeff Cowan, of Jeff Cowan’s Pro Talk, advocates that service directors reduce that quota to a maximum 15 ROs per advisor per day so they can spend more time with each customer.
In his blog, Cowan says, “Advisors allowed to write from 10 to 15 ROs per day to spend more time with customers pays off in other profitable ways for the dealership. If you want to have high survey scores, customer retention, closing ratios, hours per repair order, and maximum profits, you must give your writers the time to sell and work with the customers.”
Fine, but we’re talking about selling F&I products here. But Cowan says it’s a myth that advisors can’t or won’t sell those products too: “To sell anything on a service drive requires three things: a great product, great training in how to present and sell it, and a great pay plan.”
So, why not put in additional face time with repair and maintenance customers to present service agreements, prepaid maintenance, tire and wheel services, and similar protection products?
Many customers will have declined these products when first offered in the finance office. Some, however, will have reconsidered them later, and now may be ready to purchase.
F&I service lane tools
With this expectation set, let’s take a more in-depth look at a solution to help advisors sell F&I more confidently and convincingly—and efficiently—to their customers.
The service lane can make or reroute sales by using new tools in a digital ecosystem. With them, the service advisor can bring finance and protection products right into the service bay.
These tools deliver a dynamic digital-products presentation (with pricing) to customers on the advisor’s tablet, smartphone, or desktop. It interfaces with the same e-menu technology used in the F&I office, but tailored with options related to the customer’s specific vehicle, available upgrades, and service needs.
For the advisor, this ecosystem offers unique and compelling visuals to enhance the dealership’s value to customers. It does this by allowing upsells on accessories, parts, services, and aftermarket protection products during service—all while contributing to the brand and building on the relationship with valuable customers.
This is a real service that informs customers in the service lane about how aftermarket products can help them better manage unexpected or out-of-pocket expenses. It also provides other ways to save them from headaches, improve their vehicle’s performance, and enhance their overall ownership experience.
Considering that the average American has about $500 in their bank account for emergencies, products that help them offset the cost of future needs can be a big win.
The service lane is an excellent—and widely untapped—opportunity to sell F&I products. For example, Fidelis PPM, the dealer-branded prepaid maintenance company, says 75% of its plans are sold in the service lane, with the balance in the F&I office.
The sale of accessories on the service drive also has great potential. David Stringer, president of Insignia Group, which offers accessory sales and training for dealerships, notes that 70% of dealers don’t have accessory sales on their radar.
Selling F&I in the service lane reintroduces customers to accessories, and advanced technology shows what their vehicle will look like equipped with the various accessory products.
Products like preventive maintenance and service contracts also reinforce a customer’s connection to the dealership. For instance, many prepaid maintenance plan services like oil changes or tire rotations are redeemable only at the issuing dealership. Each visit by a plan holder gives the dealership another opportunity to service that owner’s vehicle needs.
Selling F&I in the service lane isn’t a new idea, but until now the technology and processes to make these sales practical and successful haven’t existed. Now, as the digital revolution continues to bring process improvement to dealership practices, selling F&I in the service lane is anything but unproductive.
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