Article

Technology in Your F&I Office

October 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Kirk Manzo - Also by this author

Electronic Menu Options


In order to capitalize on every sales opportunity, customer relationship management tools, or CRMs, have become the standard of operation for today’s dealerships. So if your sales department requires a technology component to operate efficiently, what additional tools does your F&I office need?

The evolution of presenting F&I products at the time of sale has progressed from a small handful of options to an almost-endless array of protections. Step selling, once the norm for our industry, has evolved over the past 15 to 20 years into the menu presentation.

While the F&I menu presentation has become accepted as the standard for today’s business manager, the technology options for presenting the menu have evolved. The idea of presenting a handwritten piece of paper as your menu is viewed as both antiquated and unprofessional. Over the past several years, software vendors have advanced the menu into an electronic format that allows for printing a full-color version that dramatically enhances visual appeal and increases the likelihood of acceptance of the products offered.

Some business managers will opt for a paperless menu presentation and use their computer screen instead. One of the trade-offs with the latter approach is that the tangibility element is lost. Consumers are very tactile, and the inability to have something they can touch and hold can limit the rate of acceptance. So what are your options?

The appetite for technology breaks hard along generational lines. Most baby boomers prefer hard-copy documents, while the Gen Y crowd just doesn’t see the point. The Xbox and PlayStation mindsets of your newest set of buyers as well as the proliferation of tablet-based touch-screen options make the idea of a paper-based F&I menu nearly obsolete.

A number of options exist for presenting an electronic menu. The question is, which one is right for your store? Like most technology, there are two costs to consider. First, there is the cost of a monthly subscription, usually with minimum terms (typically one to three years) and/or the cost of purchasing hardware (touch-screen computers). Second is the cost of reduced productivity during the integration phase while ramping up the use of the new platform.

Let’s review some of the product offerings available.

One advanced platform is the DocuPAD system. Originally developed by CoinDATA and now owned by Reynolds & Reynolds, this system provides a paperless transaction through the use of touch-screen technology that can capture a buyer’s signature and creates a highly interactive customer experience. As one of the most advanced platforms available, it should come as no surprise that the initial investment reflects those capabilities.

There are two product providers that have recently launched tablet-based options that are designed to provide a high-tech experience using the iPad as its platform.

Wisconsin-based MenuSys has developed a tablet-based tool that integrates fully with a desking component to streamline the transition from the sales process to F&I. By integrating a worksheet that incorporates the use of a payment grid, they provide a seamless transition from the salesperson into the business office.

IASDirect, based in Austin, Texas, recently introduced their SmartPAD option to the marketplace. This platform utilizes an iPad to create an interactive buying experience during the F&I menu process.

Technology often advances faster than businesses can practically integrate it and of course justify the cost. For this reason, the Washington, D.C.-based The Impact Group marries the electronic menu presentation with more widely-accepted technology, a flat-screen TV and a wireless mouse, with their product called Fusion.

The key to any great presentation, regardless of platform, is customer engagement. The more engaged the customer, the more likely they are to accept what is being offered.

As an owner or senior-level manager, you not only want a great customer experience for your F&I process; you also need relevant data to analyze the metrics of what is impacting your bottom line. A time-stamped breakdown for the entire menu presentation made to each customer not only helps identify opportunities for performance improvement, it provides details that will insulate you in the event of litigation.

So as you can see, there are many options available to integrate technology into your F&I process to create a more satisfying and profitable customer experience. With the list provided above, you now have a starting point to begin your analysis.

Good luck and good selling!

Vol. 8, Issue 9

Comment

  1. 1. Tosha Larson [ November 08, 2011 @ 04:10PM ]

    I love this idea, however I do not believe that it is something that I would be able to implament in my store. Our owner uses one company for all of his F&I products and would not be interested in looking at different avenues. I looked at IASDIRECT and it looked to me that you would have to sell there product to be able to use the SmartPAD program. If I could use this program without having to switch companies for F&I products I would be happy to present this to my owner. Cool stuff!!

    Tosha Larson

 

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