When it comes to acquiring a vehicle, some car buyers find the financial process the worst part about their purchase.

A program called Toyota Quality Financial Management is trying to change that. Customer satisfaction scores and dealer profits have risen at participating dealerships.

Financial services managers, sales managers, general sales managers, general managers and dealers who have participated in the program have seen increased vehicle gross profit and sales volume at a higher rate than the average non-TQFM dealer.

What is different? Toyota committed to improving the consumer financial services experience three years ago when it launched Toyota Quality Financial Management.

Nearly 230 Toyota dealers are participating with the 1,000th student graduating recently.

"Toyota Quality Financial Management is another example of Toyota’s commitment to helping dealers deliver a quality experience to our customers," says Bryan Bergsteinsson, group vice president for the University of Toyota.

Financial services managers are taught new ways to create a smooth transition from the sales floor to the finance office.

It is a 10-step process that includes one-on-one instruction, role-playing exercises and team-building activities. They are tested for current product knowledge and to identify specific areas of process improvement. They also learn new solutions for reducing the amount of time to complete the financial transaction, as well as develop improved listening skills to better fit service products to customers’ needs.

As of December 2000, the group of 201 dealers who have been with TQFM for 12 months or longer had impressive results when compared to their average month’s performance before TQFM.

Participants average was a 20% increase in financial services gross profit per retailed unit and a 32% increase in total financial services gross profit. Chargebacks decreased 201% and the financial Services question score on the Toyota Sales Survey increased from 89% to 93.3%.

"We are taking the fear out of financing," according to Roger Brisk, finance manager for Don Jacobs Toyota in Milwaukee, WI. "We understand that financing is one of the most stressful parts of buying a car. That is why we adopted Toyota Quality Financial Management. We treat customers with sincerity and respect, answer questions completely and thoroughly explain the financial paperwork."

A similar process was launched this year for Lexus dealership personnel.

The 10-step customer-centered philosophy is based on key guiding principles. Among them:

· Customers will be treated with sincerity and respect.

· Customers’ questions will be answered completely, directly and honestly.

· Financial services manager will "partner" with the customer.

· All paperwork will be explained thoroughly and completely.

· Customers will be able to choose from a variety of financing plans and options.