Turnover is one of the most consistent problems in the automotive industry. For years, we at NCM Associates have had lengthy and passionate conversations with many of our dealers who face the common challenge of retaining their employees in the variable department. Together, we have continued to provide support to dealers facing this issue, and today I hope to do the same for you. There are several factors behind this trend, and through this article I plan to give you some ideas to help retain your best employees by offering them a new career path, while at the same time, loading your bench with talent.
CSI Surveys: What Your Customers Think
Most dealers and sales managers would agree that the feedback from CSI surveys (and other similar sources) indicate that customers do not enjoy the process of being passed from one department to another during their purchase. In fact, many customers indicate they would prefer one point of contact throughout the entire shopping experience. Based on this feedback, you may think this option simply isn’t feasible. Instead, I want to challenge you to think a little differently. Why not give your sales people the opportunity to not only sell the car, but also complete the F&I portion of the transaction as well? While this may sound farfetched, I have seen several operations that have implemented this strategy successfully. Since most new F&I producers come from the sales floor already, this can be a great stepping stone for high achievers to introduce the skills and strategies necessary to be a successful F&I manager. As long as we have solid processes in place to train them and hold them to a high standard for results, this approach has proven very successful for both the customer and the sales representative. Many stores we work with report that these hybrid sales reps produce higher per vehicle averages and achieve higher CSI scores from their clients. While this may not be a realistic goal for your entire staff, it is possible to use this approach as a new career path you can offer to high producers as an achievement-based opportunity.
Where to Begin with Hybrid F&I
If this is something you are thinking about and want to try, you may wonder how to begin.
First: I would recommend reaching out to your F&I partner and inform them of what you want to do. Task them with helping you identify and train the personnel you choose for this opportunity. When your F&I trainers are in your store (hopefully at least monthly), make sure part of their training plan includes working with these hybrid salespeople one-on-one, and ask them to provide a training recap after each visit to help you monitor the progress of each trainee. Once you have your hybrid sales person up and running, I would suggest sending them to a comprehensive F&I training program to help with continuing their education.
Second: You may be asking yourself how will the deals get submitted and paperwork done? Many stores who have the hybrid F&I process in place use document processors (or F&I assistants) to take over some of this work. In your store, this can be an hourly employee who helps handle all paperwork. Under this configuration your salesperson is responsible for presenting an F&I menu, and once that is complete and the products are selected, the documents are prepared and delivered to the salesperson’s office by the assistant. From there, the salesperson simply has the customer sign all documents.
If you want to take this one step further, have the document processor do all this paperwork for the full-time F&I producers as well. This will help free up their time to be out on the floor helping desk managers close deals. If this is something you decide on, make sure your compensation stays in line. Many dealers have been able to lower their overall compensation by reducing the number of highly compensated F&I people in favor of the hybrid F&I process backed with the help of finance assistants.
Third: This process is also very helpful in easing the worry and hassle of replacing an F&I producer. If you happen to you lose one, you can simply promote one of your hybrid F&I sales people and never miss a beat in F&I. Furthermore, you can provide more career paths for your sales people to expand their skills and income potential. Best of all, you are equipped to provide the best experience for your customer and help improve their overall sales experience.
Do you have any questions on the Hybrid F&I process? Or maybe you have a great F&I suggestion working in your store. Let us know in the comments below!
If you want to hear more on F&I processes from our automotive experts, we suggest you check out: