What do you say to a sold customer who says they won’t sign the paperwork unless they can meet the dealer? You might ask yourself, “Was it me?” You might think, “Did I say or do something to offend them?” You might wonder, “Do I still have lunch in my teeth?”
You might. But the real reason can often be discerned from the heat and tone of the question asked. Is the customer acting defensive, happy or celebratory? Always clarify the question.
A recent guest declined the service contract. I reiterated why I thought it was a great deal and tried to reach a state of acceptance. They had other thoughts and asked for the dealer. “No problem,” I said. “Let me see if he’s in.” I paged the receptionist. No luck. So I asked if I could be of assistance. The guest proceeded to explain what happened the last time they bought the service contract.
It was a horror story. Not only did it not cover as promised, leaving the guest to foot the bill, but the provider went bankrupt and the dealership closed its doors!
This guest was not reacting to something I did or said or ate for lunch. They just wanted someone to assure them the service contract was legit. I am prepared for these instances. I was able to offer real testimonials from satisfied guests, more information about the provider and a personal assurance that our happy, prosperous store won’t be departing Park Rapids anytime soon.
Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot. As F&I professionals, we are, on occasion, told by guests that the salesperson did something wrong. In such cases, I get the salesperson involved immediately. Why do we have “we-owes”? To keep all parties on the same page. You can work 100,000 deals and make an error on the next one.
Cash down, rebates, bad VIN, out-of-state tax, license fees, book values, local city, county or state tax, bad addresses, spelling errors and Red Flags are among the usual suspects. It may also be a case of he said/she said or a simple misunderstanding. “There’s a flag on the field and I’m not going to lose a timeout!” Either way, I get it handled, now.
Whether you are selling a vehicle or financing a service contract, GAP or credit life and disability product, compliance is a key consideration. Regulators challenge us by constantly changing their minds and requiring us to adapt. We must feel comfortable responding to those challenges, and we must respond in a way that causes the least disruption to our guests as well as our service advisors, technicians and other coworkers.
We are in a unique position to do exactly that. Guests come to F&I for peace of mind. When we can really, truly understand what it is they are trying to accomplish, we can satisfy their needs, priorities and concerns. We get to put guests at ease, on a regular basis, simply by letting them know they have done what they needed to do to secure their investment.
Popular culture vilifies the automotive industry at times, and I think that’s very unfortunate. I think the outside media sees us as an easy target. They tend to describe a very simplistic and often exaggerated picture of what happens in our industry. We have to stay centered and focused on what it is our guests need from us and want from us.
The next time a guest of yours asks to see the boss or levels a complaint against the showroom, don’t let your heart sink. Handle the situation in a transparent way and demonstrate a willingness to handle every situation with unflappable confidence. At the end of the day, the only standards you have to live up to are your own.
G.P. Anderson is finance director of Thielen Motors Chevrolet Buick in Park Rapids, Minn., and a 25-year industry veteran. He is AFIP-certified, a 2008 F&I Pacesetter and winner of the inaugural 2011 F&Idol contest. [email protected]