LOS ANGELES — Some training videos show what to do. Others, often painfully and unwittingly, demonstrate what not to do.
Joanna Sherry of VW Credit Inc. shows a few of the latter, shot with hidden cameras as mystery shoppers at dealerships test how artfully staffers handle the finance-and-insurance process. In some cases, it looks like a lost art.
“Take off your corporate hats and put on customer hats,” she tells attendees, many of them dealers, at the 2010 Automotive Customer Centricity Summit here.
One clip shows an F&I manager talking to a mystery shopper in the middle of the dealership showroom as people walk by and a Peter Frampton song plays in the background.
“Would you really want to give sensitive information, such as your social security number, in that environment?” Sherry, VW Credit's general manager-marketing and business development, asks during her conference presentation, “Building Consumer Confidence in the F&I Office.”
Although another video recording is at least in the privacy of an office, the F&I manager is egregiously laconic as he avoids eye contact with a mystery shopper who says, “Anything else I need to know?”
“Nope,” he says.
“No, that's it. When do you want to do it?”
The hidden camera captures another less-than-perfect moment when the customer impersonator asks to speak to a finance manager. A dealership employee, points to someone behind a counter and says, “Tell you what, this guy is a jack of all trades.”
In other words, he's not really a finance manager, but he'll give it a shot.
In another clip, a dealership staffer tells the mystery shopper the only F&I product she needs is an extended-warranty contract. “You don't need gap insurance,” he says.
So much for the F&I sales-effectiveness training of presenting “100% of the products to 100% of the customers 100% of the time.”
The imperfections “show an opportunity for improvement,” Sherry says. “Not to bash dealers but, ‘You don't need gap insurance?’” she asks incredulously.
In fairness, proper F&I presentations occur every day at dealerships across the land. But, as is typical, it's the bad examples that attract the most attention. It's akin to planes that crash making the news, not the millions that take off and land daily without incident.
Not all of the clips from 60 hours of video recording are bad. “Some are good,” says Sherry. Still, she adds, “We need to do more training in the F&I office.”
That's because what happens in the F&I office, doesn't stay in the F&I office. It makes its way onto customer satisfaction forms. And it stays in the minds of consumers.
It can spur a customer to not only to flee the dealership but also bolt from the brand. “We've seen signs of improvement in customer loyalty, but there's a ways to go,” Sherry says.
Moreover, F&I misbehavior can claw into dealership profits. “For dealers, there is gross profit going out the window,” she says.