To Interview or Not to Interview: Differing Opinions in F&I

November 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Kimberly Long - Also by this author

Differing Opinions

At many dealerships, F&I managers interview customers early in the sales process. Mike Davis, finance director at BMW of Sudbury, said interviewing the customer before they get to the F&I office is “absolutely crucial.” He stated, “I think it helps them feel more comfortable with you initially, so when you get them into the F&I office you’re not wasting a lot of time starting out trying to build rapport. Plus, if you go and interview them ahead of time … you’re going to see what their needs are, and you’re going to customize your presentation based on their needs.”

Jack Higginbotham, finance director of Laurel Ford Lincoln Kia, agreed, adding that, to many customers, the finance office is “the most intimidating place you can walk into—going in and opening up your life and your wallet … It’s just not something a lot of people are comfortable with, so the more at ease you make them before they [go] into the office, the better it goes when you’re in the office and doing your presentation.”

While Davis and Higginbotham emphasized the importance of interviewing customers before meeting them in the F&I office, Shane Seys, finance manager for Northtowne Automotive Group, takes a different stance on the issue, which he admitted goes against the traditionally accepted practice.
“We don’t do interviews with the customer prior to them coming into the finance office,” he stated, adding that the most they will do in advance is a meet-and-greet. “At that time we don’t want to ask them a lot of questions because we don’t want them to put their guard up,” he explained. “We don’t want them to feel like the sales pitch is coming.” He said they have done interviews before and acknowledged, “In some [F&I] departments, it’s the best thing in the world to do. For us, it’s not.

“The interview process … gives you a perception of what you think the customer is going to buy,” he explained. He believed this could cause an F&I manager to skew the presentation in favor of certain products according to his own perception, put little emphasis on other products and possibly talk himself right out of a sale. He said the best course is to skip the advance interview and simply have the menu sitting on the desk in front of the customer when they enter the F&I office. “If you go straight into having that menu ready, you are truly offering all of your products.” He said that on average their per-copy has gone up about $250 since they stopped doing interviews.

For more check out "F&I Best Practices: 13 Methods to Implement"
Vol. 8, Issue 9 

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