Article

Hollywood - Fact Or Fiction?

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Kevin Day - Also by this author

The Hollywood portrayal of a car salesperson is a fast-talking, bow tie wearing person in a cheap suit that knows more closes than a door. This portrayal is easy for a lot of us involved in the business to shrug off. However, what if we took the time to really analyze what people think about us … what ideas do people really have about us. Is their perception that we in the auto industry are more dishonest than regular folks? To really come up with some answers we can dive into statistics, and the answer is YES. Yes, people really do perceive that car salespeople are at the bottom of the rung as far as ethics and honesty goes. We rank below attorneys and IRS auditors. With this being said, where do we go from here?

A thick volume could be written on improvements dealerships need to do to get a higher customer satisfaction score. Let’s take time to analyze one segment, and that is the Finance Office. The F&I office has been shredded in CSI scores for over 30 years. This office is a high stressed environment. The F&I office consistently maintains higher than average burnout for the employee. Customers have learned to fear this environment. Shows such as 60 Minutes and Primetime with their hidden cameras show what can happen to poor unsuspecting individuals. There is not another place in the dealership where so much money can be made (or lost) in so little time. These are the cold hard facts. Is this the way this department has to be? NO!

The finance office does not need to be a “grind.” This should not be a place customers fear to tread. F&I managers do not need to face the burnout and stress associated being in this office. How is this to be accomplished? For starters, we need to run our F&I office with the highest integrity available. We can use a weapon in the office that will make us more money than any other item available.

This weapon will raise our CSI scores, retain our customers, and make more money for us. What is this weapon you say? Ok, here it is… HONESTY! Our customers will never see it coming.
 
To begin with we must realize that the most important component in the F&I office is credibility. Honesty will build credibility. Credibility is what sells. Ok, there you have it, now go make a pile of money. All the smiling customers will be coming back over and over. Ok, well maybe it’s not quite that easy. You see what we need to do is start our processes with honesty in mind. We must provide open and complete disclosure (this is not just a moral issue but a legal issue as well). We must show the customers the different options that are available to them and let them choose. Believe me, a customer will choose far more than you can ever sell them. If you are not using a menu selling system, then here is a little free advice… START NOW!

The menu selling system has been proven to increase both revenues and CSI. In order to increase our future business we cannot underestimate how important CSI is. Our customer’s perception of us should be a top priority. Begin each closing in the F&I office with a personal greeting, then review the numbers and finally let the customer choose their own options. This process has been tried and proven for over a decade.

Have you ever received a phone call at your home in the evenings where you can tell that the person on the other end of the line is reading a script? I have, and this really annoys me. I feel like I am getting “sold” something. This is the issue we don’t want our customers to fee l… like they are getting sold something. If we use the secret weapon we spoke about in the above depiction then the customer will be empowered. They will be able to choose. The customer will not be afraid of us. We will actually become their friend. And whom do people like to buy from? You got it, their friends.

I can’t help but think that if we take the time to realize the importance of our CSI, especially in the F&I office, then we will be making a lot of two things: friends and money. Who knows, maybe Hollywood will someday portray us in the car business as the straight-shooting, friendly salespeople that the vast majority of us are. In the meantime, good luck and good selling!

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