Creating a Culture of Unity in Service & F&I
Sometimes a dealership’s service and F&I departments are reminiscent of oil and water: they just don’t mix! In reality, your service and F&I departments have a lot more in common than you might think; getting both teams focused on the same end goals and helping them work together will lead to a better customer experience and a more profitable future.
In his recent conversation with NAC’s Corey Smith, Chris Wilson shared some of the wisdom he has amassed over 15+ years working in automotive retail.
Finding Common Ground
One of the biggest similarities between your service and F&I departments is the way they interact with customers. Unlike the sales department, which works to bring customers in, your F&I and service departments have customers coming to them. Furthermore, those customers are coming in knowing that they’re about to spend money, and a lot of them probably expect that it won’t be an easy visit. Ultimately, your customers want the same outcome from both service and F&I: they want their experience to be quick, professional, and painless. They want the facts, and they want to feel like the person they’re working with can be trusted. Another similarity? In each of these departments, the customer will ultimately make their own choices. But if your team presents them with all the information and applicable solutions, they’re likely to choose more options than staff could ever “sell” them.
Both departments need to be able to navigate the psychology of customer interactions under the same shared pressure: that of making money. Dealers rely on F&I and service for a sizeable chunk of their income. For Chris Wilson, there has been one methodology that helps both departments meet their financial goals: offer the customer every product they qualify for, every single time. In F&I this is a more natural process, but in Chris’s experience it works equally well in service. If your customer is due for multiple maintenance items, offering only a select few is selling your store short: don’t assume a customer can’t afford or won’t be inclined to purchase all of them. What’s more, not offering all the services their vehicle needs could have a negative impact on more than just your profits: it will hurt your customer satisfaction scores, too. Imagine your customer having an issue with a maintenance item you decided not to discuss with them at their last visit. How would they react? How would you react if your places were reversed? That customer will feel that your store let them down, and rebuilding their trust is much harder than taking the time to offer them every service, every time.
If you want your dealership’s service and F&I departments to work as a team, the right attitude starts at the top. Leadership needs to set the example: managers should have a strong understanding of the role of each department and think of both as part of the same team working towards the same goal. Chris Wilson’s suggestions for building a culture of teamwork include having one training for everyone instead of separate ones for each department, or cross-training service and F&I personnel on the other department’s role and having team members help on real-life deals in the other department. Once these team members start to work together, they’ll begin to see what their roles have in common; coupled with reinforcement from leadership, they’ll understand how to help one another—and they’ll want to help one another.
For even more insights, check out the video recording of Chris Wilson with our Fixed Ops 5 podcast host Corey Smith. And be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel as well as our Fixed Ops 5 podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.