LAS VEGAS — What do the experts in the industry think about video recording sessions with customers in dealership finance & insurance offices?

We asked several of them at the 2006 F&I Management and Technology conference in this city where “eye in the sky” surveillance cameras are omnipresent.

Here's what they say:

Kevin Westfall, AutoNation Inc.'s senior vice president-sales:

“We considered it but when you have 640,000 transactions, as we have, and you have to look at every one, it becomes difficult. I'd have to have a bank of people looking at tapes.”

Andrew Blazsanyik, Resource Automotive's executive director-training:

“If you do it, make sure you look at every recording, which becomes expensive and time consuming. If you have people well-trained and rewarded fairly for ethical work, and if you have controls in place, you don't need to video-record F&I transactions any more than a doctor needs to film an examination of a patient.”

Former dealer Rob Mancuso, Aon Warranty Group's senior vice president-marketing and communications:

“It would help with accountability, and I'm not sure why you'd have to review every taping. You have to make it clear to the customer that he or she can have it switched off. But there are various ways to assure accountability. One of them is mystery shopping, which can be very effective.”

Pam Lewis, CNA National's vice president-sales:

“Using it for training purposes allows you to see how an F&I manager is doing; what's being done right and wrong. But I have mixed emotions about the compliance issue if a transaction becomes a legal dispute. You could have three lawyers look at a taped transaction and come up with three different interpretations about what happened or what a voice inflection meant.

“Personally I feel a signed disclosure form offers more protection and is less open to interpretation.”

David Robertson, executive director of the Assn. of F&I Professionals:

“Cameras in the F&I office are the best and worst thing that has happened for the industry. It is the best thing if the dealership has F&I people doing it right, and it certainly provides a sense of security to the customer. It is the worst thing if you are doing it wrong, because it becomes discovery evidence in a lawsuit.

“A risk is that, if there's a technical problem and a transaction isn't recorded, and, as luck would have it, that's the transaction that ends up in a court dispute, well, then the dealer has a real problem. It would be like trying to explain the 18-minute gap in the Watergate tape.”

Richard Costello, Universal Underwriters Group's national F&I executive:

“I've talked to dealership people who use it and say customers overwhelmingly prefer it. Customers don't object to it, any more than they object to hearing, ‘This call may be monitored for quality assurance.’

“Video-recording in the F&I office tells customers you care, want to do the right thing and want them to be treated fair and honestly. And it tells employees to treat customers fair and honestly.”