Before the Industrial Age, everything was handcrafted. In the early 1900s, Henry Ford’s process for producing the Model T was key to transforming manufacturing techniques.
Today, Tesla and other manufacturers’ vehicles flow to completion along assembly lines mainly manned by robotic assemblers. Yet, even with all of today’s technology, other manufacturers still handcraft vehicles to ensure the artisan approach. But whether it’s by line assembly, cell manufacturing, or the handmade approach, the goal of building a vehicle is accomplished.
This illustration represents today’s F&I office. For some dealers, a one-off F&I presentation is good enough. Others want to give customers the opportunity to say yes to all the products they offer. Some dealers have the same salesperson start to finish, while other pass the customer from one department to another.
It’s not one or the other anymore. F&I workflow technology gives F&I managers the best of all worlds: the ability to slow way down where desired, and the flexibility to flow and guide customers through largely self-directed products penetration. We see this flexibility in:
- Digital engagement tools that grab buyers’ attention to help them thoroughly understand the value of the products you offer. The outcome is higher per vehicle retail (PVR) and product penetration.
- Customers offered a digital F&I experience feel more at home using tools like those they use at home or play every day. Comfort translates into trust, an essential for increasing product sales.
Dealers see these advantages as a pathway to improved F&I performance. Flexible, digital, and modular F&I workflow technologies guide people through the F&I process, but can adapt on the fly to a one-off customized solution. Operating F&I from a flexible workflow perspective means your processes and approach adapt to evolving customer, industry, and regulatory changes.
Here’s another way to look at this opportunity: Some people prefer books, but more individuals would rather watch the movie than read the book.
The same goes for presenting products. Rather than reading descriptive paragraphs, most people want to engage with the content, and immediately understand what it means to them.
In addition, some dealerships want to build a strong case before they ask for the sale, while others ask for the sale up front to avoid selling what might already be sold. A flexible workflow lets a dealership improvise and try out techniques as it learns more about its customers, their receptiveness, and their needs.
F&I platforms that use gamification technology—digital user interaction—transform F&I workflow into a visually clean, enjoyable, simple, and user-friendly process. We see this evolution in F&I platforms that leverage tablets, digital, video, flat-screen visuals, and interactive consumer surveys.
This experience engages consumers’ eyes, ears, hands, minds, and emotions in a more holistic, multifaceted shopping, decisioning, and buying environment. This metamorphosis occurs through the sophisticated, but easy-to-use, presentation of graphics, sounds, movement, and imagery that breaks down the processes into bite-sized portions that are easily digestible for the consumer.
F&I workflow applications give consumers control, which they want, and empowers them to build their own customized profile and menu of products they decide are directly aligned with their needs and driving habits. The result is a higher PVR and product penetration on each vehicle sold.
Some dealers will enter the future dragging along old F&I methodologies and practices. Their F&I results may move forward too—perhaps. While the automotive market, new vehicles entering the landscape, and dealership dynamics change, process flexibility will be a necessity, no longer an option.
One change, however, seems clear: Dealers who remain profitable and competitive will have removed unnecessary costs from their business model, and will have moved forward technologically to find and capture revenue wherever it’s hidden.
One example of such opportunity is found in F&I workflow platforms, which incorporate smart survey tools that analyze consumer risk thresholds and match their needs to protection products offered by the dealership. When customers are more informed about the products you offer, they are more inclined to consider—and buy—them.
Workflow technology that guides this process helps your F&I team make thorough and dynamic presentations. The process now flows more freely for everyone involved and is no longer static, but instead engaging and transparent at each step.
A guided F&I experience like this improves:
- PVR: Sell customers on product value, and link the products you offer to buyers’ hot buttons.
- Sales penetration: To increase this number, engage with customers more deeply to develop rapport and trust, and ask open-ended questions that help reveal their concerns about value.
- Products sold per deal: Increase the number of aftermarket products you sell per transaction.Service contracts and GAP are often the only aftermarket products offered to customers. But when you use F&I technology tools that present for you, don’t be surprised at the response from customers to the other products on your menu. Your goal is to increase your average to three or four products per transaction.
Interactive sales tools that incorporate a factory warranty review presentation with graphs and other visuals grab consumer attention, educate them on product value, and help sell your menu products. These tools help F&I managers demonstrate the genuine need for coverage, and offer the ownership experience customers want. The customer discovers that a product solves a real problem, and the salesperson seems like a hero, not an obstacle.
F&I workflow technology helps consumers guide themselves through a more thorough, informative, and engaging presentation. It allows F&I managers to step out of the flow for special needs for one customer—perhaps a buyer uncomfortable with technology—and back into a workflow presentation stream for the millennial buyer waiting in the wings.
Henry Ford borrowed a great idea from meat processors of the era: assembly line processes. His automotive production and profits soared once he implemented the idea in his factories.
There will always be a need to change course and be flexible as you learn more about the customers you work with. It makes sense to have an F&I office with tools that are also flexible to ensure increased PVR, production penetration, and customer satisfaction.
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