October 2014, Auto Dealer Today - Feature
As a successful finance and insurance manager, I take a highly personalized approach to the customer experience on every deal. I do this regardless of whether it’s a cash, wholesale or lease deal, a subprime, nearprime or prime deal, or an in-house or outside finance deal.
It matters not. A deal is a deal! My brain is thinking happy thoughts. I’m not going to worry about the sales department, service department, receptionist, their worldviews or the weather. The delivery of a superlative guest experience in my office is our last chance to plant a positive impression in the customer’s mind before they depart to take delivery of their vehicle.
Adequate finance managers are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. I must prove I am not like everyone else. I never wash my hands of a customer. Whom do they call if an issue arises? “Hey, G.P., I need this or that.” I can handle it.
It’s a critical element that most F&I pros overlook. It’s a differentiator and a trust builder. It shows guests that you care, honor and respect the relationship. … Yes, I said “relationship.” They buy one car every six years, we sell six cars by 12 noon. That’s business. Their purchase is an event. They spent six months doing research, six weeks to focus in on what they wanted and six hours closing the deal, and they’ll spend the next six years paying it off.
Our customers get so excited, they drive off and take to the airwaves. They tell their families, friends, co-workers and social media acquaintances about their dealership experience and everything about their new vehicle, right down to the new-car smell. Hop in one of those showroom units right now and remind your brain what that smells like. Then get back to work. There is much to do.
Customer Service Reboot
It starts with authenticity. You have to make a decision about what you stand for. You have to help others sincerely and genuinely with a caring approach, and you have to do that consistently. Remember that consistency represents the ultimate level of excellence. Every day, every time, without fail, no exceptions. No plaque on the wall will tell this story. You have to demonstrate leadership and tell it with your own words and actions.
I want every customer to have an exceptional experience. I don’t want them to be happy; I want them to rave about us.
We are competing against people who are willing to lower prices to get a client. Look at the national insurance advertising. Raise deductibles, reduce coverage and make statements. I want to go to where a lot of F&I managers won’t go. I want to be willing to talk about sensitive issues. It’s very complex. If you don’t know your customer, client or guest, you can’t get down to that level.
Some problems may never be solvable, but at least they know you are there and on their side. Explaining that they will receive turndown letters from various lenders is one example. People call me and ask if they get to keep the vehicle after getting numerous decline letters. Hundreds and hundreds of times over the years, people have thanked me for taking the time to assist, answer questions and offer suggestions.
Taking them from a high double-digit APR to prime rates and into a new vehicle is rewarding not only for them but for the dealership. Service, parts and sales all benefit. Plus, birds of a feather flock together. Don’t forget the referrals you’ll get from happy customers as they buzz among their peers.
And the rewards don’t end there. New-car customers produce one-owner vehicles with service records from your store. That means increased customer loyalty and brand loyalty too. Boom shakalaka! Everyone scores!
In the end, that’s what we can and should provide in the finance office. We deal with the lives of many people in a largely intangible way. Everyone living in the modern world needs good, dependable, reliable transportation. They are counting on you to offer solutions and justify their investment. Every coupe, sedan, crossover, minivan and truck is a big deal to someone.
Isolate your negative thoughts, treat others with respect and utilize your talents daily. It may be Monday, but that’s OK, because we are professionals.
G.P. Anderson is a finance director of Thielen Motors Chevrolet Buick in Park Rapids, Minn., and a 25-year industry veteran. [email protected]