At a typical dealership, the finance office might only be a few paces from the service drive. But if stores large and small want to improve their performances in 2019 and beyond, EFG Companies emphasized that personnel in both dealership departments must be aligned shoulder to shoulder and proceed in lockstep to generate enhanced customer retention.
EFG Companies recently examined these store elements, explaining that profit can be generated when the F&I office and the service drive are working in tandem like the atmosphere at Star Auto Group based in Abilene, Texas.
Owner Mike Dunahoo said his dealer group placed significant emphasis on customer service that involves training the sales and service team members on the benefits of the F&I products sold in finance to both the dealership and consumers.
“Unit sales has always been priority number one in our industry,” Dunahoo said. “While that priority remains, never before in history has the service drive been potentially the greatest lever for future success.
“Now, the service drive is as important as sales to continuously and genuinely please customers through value-driven information and motivating incentives for service,” he added.
John Kane shared the F&I point of view about the matter. Kane is co-founder of Empire Dealer Services, which took home EFG’s Top Agent Award at this year’s agent council meeting.
“Our dealership clients are under pressure from the OEMs to increase customer retention,” Kane said. “However, even if you take out that pressure, it’s still clear that the most successful and cost-effective way forward is customer retention.
“And, the best road that I’ve seen toward achieving repeat business is by aligning all dealership departments with this goal,” he continued. “In the next few years, F&I administrators and dealers need to work together to fully realize the potential these tools provide when it comes to customer service and retention.”
Additionally, Kane mentioned the industry can expect to see a resurgence of maintenance programs in terms of both implementation within the dealership as well as an evolution of the programs’ features and offerings.
“While maintenance programs have always been around, our dealer clients are asking for support in how to best utilize them,” Kane said. “Most dealers fail to recognize that a maintenance program’s sole purpose is to foster customer retention. That means selling the product at, or near cost to increase product penetration, and therefore, customer retention.”
EFG Companies president and chief executive officer John Pappanastos outlined the path he believes both F&I agents and dealerships can navigate that can lead to reinforced customer relationships and a more robust bottom line.
“Dealers don’t have to reinvent the wheel to remain competitive. Integrating operations between the service drive and the F&I office creates a natural customer retention cycle,” Pappanastos said. “However, this integration will take more than selling F&I products. It will require dealers to invest in the service center by providing service managers more comprehensive training around customer service and sales.
“For example, EFG has taken proactive steps to build out a full portfolio of training services for virtually every aspect of the dealership, including service manager training,” he went on to say.
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