Consider this daily occurrence…a customer needs F&I product support. They may search for their paper contract and look for the section that says “file a claim”. What will the customer find there? Alternately, the customer intuitively shows up at their dealer’s service drive unannounced. This should be a perfect moment for customer retention and even additional sales…right?

This is today’s typical F&I service drive moment. The customer is greeted by the service advisor, “How can I help you today?”. The customer says, “I bought my vehicle here and some protection products too. I need service support.” The service advisor unequipped to help replies, “What protection products did you buy (from us)? Do you have a copy of your service contract? Do you know what it’s called?” The customer says (disappointed and confused), “I purchased them from you…don’t you know?”

The Service Drive Problem

After this relationship diminishing and brand dilution exchange, the customer is invited to have a seat in the dealer’s waiting room while the service advisor spends their valuable time figuring out what they sold their customer. How many times does a service advisor figure out what is being sold in the dealer’s F&I environment for the first time when a customer is in front of them requesting service from it? If you’re being honest with yourself…this sequence of events happens everyday…at every dealership. Retention inspiring moment, no. Huge missed revenue and relationship building opportunity, yes.

The F&I environment and a dealer’s service drive are obviously two critical financial centers for every dealership.

A longstanding value proposition for F&I products by their third party administrators (TPAs) is “customer retention” (beyond the additional gross that is added to the customer’s initial purchase). But does this post sales F&I service engagement really promote customer retention today? Does it lead to more revenue and more meaningful customer retention or does it fuel one of the reasons why 7 out of 10 vehicle purchasing customers never come back to their selling dealership?

The dealer’s F&I environment is filled by more than one F&I TPA. More specifically consider this…

  • How many different F&I products does a dealer offer in their F&I environment? 5, 6, 7 or more in many cases.
  • Through how many different TPAs or product providers? It’s always more than a few.
  • As a direct result, how many different pathways exist for a customer or service advisor to navigate when F&I service is needed? The sobering truth is…it’s an ugly and archaic service maze.

Most customers unfortunately never read their service contract or warranty. Also, the related service pathways were never highlighted at the point-of-sale. F&I presentations are consumed with only features and benefits (the same way the F&I products were presented to the dealer by the TPAs). Ironically, service contracts (at the most basic level) are contracts for “service”. However TPAs and (by extension) their selling dealers never disclose how they will be “serviced”. Why? Wouldn’t the experience of owning these valuable products help propel their sales and inspire customer retention, if the customer understood how they worked when the rubber hits the road?

The answer is…absolutely not (at least in today’s typically supported environment). Here’s why. Most TPAs and product providers claims service support mechanisms include…

  • Multiple 1800 numbers, phone queues and manual claim processing. HINT FOR F&I LEADERS: CALL HOLD WAIT TIMES is NOT a relevant measurement of customer experience today (irregardless of the time on hold). It’s a measurement of operational inefficiencies and a huge competitive disadvantage.
  • Next, fill-in-all-the-blanks archaic online claim forms are an experience…just not a good one.
  • Finally, apps that only connect to certain F&I products or a single F&I providers only contribute to the poor “disconnected from reality” engagement problem.

Imagine disclosing any (or all) of these current TPA primary service support pathways (with transparency) to a customer at the point-of-sale (or to a dealer when the TPA or its agent is presenting their F&I products). Would anyone buy or adopt them?

The Your Dealer Experience (YDE) platform , is a foundational element to modernizing dealer-customer post sales engagement, with many transformative solutions.

The YDE app solves the multiple TPAs’ claims service engagement maze by connecting all the participating TPAs behind the scenes to one dealer branded app, so the customer and service advisor have a unified and frictionless engagement platform to intuitively support all their service contract needs (service contract definitions, completely file/interact/get the resulting service from a claim and even purchase additional coverage). YDE has refined the F&I claims engagement process, not just digitalized the old process. An enriched, intuitive experience that dramatically improves the service advisor/customer experience, while removing the operational inefficiencies for the TPAs by improving loss control, promoting faster claim processing and dramatically reducing call center phone volume and manual claim entry. TPAs can keep their current admin platform, but plug-in the YDE solution today to gain new competitive differentiation, deliver a relevant experience and help their dealers improve revenue and meaningful customer retention. Isn’t that what our collective industry mission is suppose to be? Replay the customer visits their dealer’s service drive for F&I service support scenario.

Service Advisor Access

Now the service advisor is equipped with the YDE app and simply enters the customer’s last name and scan their vehicle VIN bar code to initiate F&I product service, even when multiple TPAs exist.

YDE also innovates Dealer Messaging, empowering a dealer to connect with their customers using a simple principle. Push notifications and stylized messaging inspires engagement, promotes a connected response and fulfills the desired result. Phone solicitations, junk mail (postal or email) and random test messages (the current dealer post sales communication attempts) are primarily interpreted by their customers as fraud. Think about it, how do you respond to these types of communications? Do you engage or delete/trash them. It’s not if we connect, but how we connect with our customers the makes the revenue/retention connection…or not. Business is built on relationships (cliché but true). Healthy, long-lasting relationships are build on good communication. What should the first Dealer Messaging be from the dealer to its customer, after the point-of-sale? How about the dealer principle letting their new customer sincerely know, “Thank you for buying a vehicle from us and welcome to our family. We’re looking forward to enhancing your ownership journey!”, with a link to a personalized video and an invitation to return to the dealer for their first car wash and/or oil change? Maybe a follow-up Dealer Message, “You’re on the right path to an enriched ownership experience and we’re here to support you!”, with a link to the dealer’s service drive schedule and a video highlighting the services the dealer offers or a personal tour of the service department and its unique ability to support their customers, hosted by the dealer’s service manager. Future Dealer Messaging would include service drive specials, community events sponsored by the dealer and offers to purchase additional F&I products that were missed at the point-of-sale. Shouldn’t these be the first steps to building an ownership relationship?

After the customer purchases a vehicle from a dealer, “what happens next” matters. Take for example Digital Retailing, which abruptly ends the digital engagement at the point-of-sale. Is that suppose to be the end of the digital journey…or the beginning. It’s not just technology that makes YDE so innovative. It’s a refined process that embraces “DigitalLifecycle” to support the dealer and their customer throughout their ownership journey together. Your customers are waiting for you (or someone else) to deliver Your Dealer Experience.