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How Soft Skills Define Your F&I Results

Dealerships have become more adaptable to new technologies that help improve both internal and external processes which have created unprecedented growth in F&I in the past few years. With so much emphasis on high-tech, it can be easy to lose focus and forget about the importance of a high-touch or personal experience your team creates for your customers. Research indicates that even the most technology-savvy block of Millennials, the Digital Natives, yearn for the high-touch in their automotive experience. Winning with today’s and future buyers, dealerships have to strike a healthy balance between high-tech and high-touch. Delivering this top quality experience in F&I requires a greater focus on your team’s soft skills. In their career services study, Davenport University defines soft skills as “a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with.” These soft skills have a great impact on someone’s ability to provide a high-touch experience. Ultimately, you can teach anybody to be professional, but you cannot teach someone to be friendly and nice, they either have it or they don’t.

During my 2016 NADA F&I Process Workshop, Dealers and Managers were asked to rate their F&I department’s soft skills. They are – managing expectations, sense of urgency, early involvement, being proactive and attitude. The scale ranged from “poor” (1),” fair” (2), “good” (3), “better” (4) to “best” (5). The responses provide an interesting insight about a culture of F&I departments.
Here is how the participants felt about their F&I managers ability to handle their process:
39% rated them as “fair” (2) and another 38% rated them as “good” (3). Thus, the overwhelming majority are not enthused about the ability to execute a process and only 2% (!!!) thought it deserves a rating of “best” (5).

The “early involvement” had received the poorest ratings with 51% saying it is “poor” (1) or “fair” (2).

The lack of urgency is another area that demonstrates the state of affairs is not well in F&I, with 44% rating it “poor” and “fair”.

The findings come as a surprise. As margins on new and used vehicles shrink, many dealers have experienced the best F&I profitability in the last five to ten years. Even though profitability has increased, the survey feedback certainly underlines the notion that the overall F&I process is either broken or mediocre at best. As with the proverbial “chicken or the egg” it is difficult to decide what comes first, a broken process, poor communication or a passive/reactive approach? Creating the best F&I process with the best available technology is paramount to the success of your dealership, but if your team is struggling with people skills, you will get inconsistent results. It’s evident, that even with a mediocre process and less than perfect F&I culture on the showroom, it is still possible to generate fair to good F&I results. Will improving your team’s cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces lead you to the better or best levels of performance? To find out how, contact ADG.

by Tony Troussov

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