There’s no doubt F&I is ready to do business digitally.

Among developments:

  • Ford Motor Credit announced a platform with financial tech company AutoFi to enable consumers to purchase or finance a new Ford vehicle from a dealership website.
  • Lender aggregator Route One acquired digital F&I platform company MaximTrak to boosts its digital retail business.
  • Used-car website Vroom is using digital platform DealerDoc for facilitating out-of-state vehicle titling and registration services. The goal is to expand its market reach coast to coast.

Online tools potentially help dealers digitally sell more vehicles and F&I products. In the meantime, people still visit brick and mortar showrooms hoping to have a meaningful F&I experience, not a bad time in “the box.”

For F&I consultant Mike Hirschfield, president of Cornerstone Dealer Development, the F&I manager can make a big difference, technology aside.

“It’s their people skills, and specifically their ability to connect with others,” he says.

Customers don’t disdain being in the box, if they’re treated well. They disdain an F&I manager in the box who is pushy and pitching products that don’t apply to them.

F&I managers who connect with customers guide their decision-making by laying out a clear and compelling path for action and F&I product purchases, Hirschfield says.

“Customers don’t necessarily want a faster process, they want a better experience,” he says. “They want an actual person to help them make sense of the products and how the products affect the overall ownership experience.”

He says F&I customers:

  • Buy wants, not needs.
  • Want to be understood to help them get the most out of their purchase, and don’t want to hear about yet another protection product they “need” to buy.
  • Are interested in how things make them feel. Tell them compelling short stories to hold their interest, not give them brochures and paper menus to stare at.

“An F&I Manager who is a master wordsmith, who has been given the best tools and support with the best systems and processes will prove to be ineffective if he or she cannot inspire action,” Hirschfield says. “Connecting is the most critical and underdeveloped skill in all sales.”