July 29, 2021

Digital tools can improve customers’ F&I experience

When it comes to many auto consumers, their biggest frustration is with the dealership finance and insurance department. To help alleviate this annoyance, car dealerships should consider adopting some of the latest technology to speed the process up and make the experience more satisfying.

Research by Cox Automotive shows customers spend, on average, three hours at a dealership when buying a vehicle. Financing the new purchase took longer than expected, customers told Cox.

At the same time, consumers who finance their vehicle purchase at the dealership is dropping, according to a FICO survey.

Here are some ways F&I departments can bring digital tools into the office to improve customers’ experience.

About 5 percent of customers report having digitally reviewed and signed documents and contracts at a dealership, according to another Cox study. This shows that digitizing the finance process is possible. In addition to improving customer satisfaction, there also are cost-saving reasons to do so.

A dealership seeking to digitize its finance department will need to determine whether its IT team can implement an effective digital document management system.

To plan a proper implementation, it is a good idea to involve anyone who is part of the finance process — from the receptionist to the finance manager to the dealership manager. With an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, essential features and capabilities will more easily be uncovered.

Having a proper balance of documents that originate digitally and converting paper documents into digital files will be important. For documents that originate digitally, digital signature capabilities are a core part of the finance process. Dealerships will want to consider the options for customers to sign with a finger, mouse or pen.

Also, any digital document management solution should have scan and capture capabilities. Users will need to be able to edit captured documents, such as rotating, cropping and contrast and brightness corrections.

Other complementary technologies that are likely important to consider include using bar codes and optical character recognition (OCR). These technologies of convenience can often significantly reduce time spent on specific workflows. The larger the operation, the more impactful their benefits become.

There are many bar code symbols and scenarios to consider. An F&I office might want to affix a bar code to a physical customer file to scan it and conveniently call up data related to it. Or the office might want to also be able to scan a VIN to integrate it more with the finance and sales process.

Dealerships might be able to take automation a step further. When they capture an image of the customer’s driver’s license, for example, they can apply OCR technology to extract essential information: full name, address, driver’s license number and so on. This can be used to automatically populate information in financial forms.

Auto dealerships can significantly improve customer satisfaction rates by improving the finance department process. By modernizing the F&I process, dealerships can raise customer satisfaction scores. Going digital also can increase productivity in the office, ensure better regulatory compliance and help streamline operations.

With margins continuing to thin, taking steps to keep customers using dealer financing is vital. As more and more customers expect digital experiences, the paperwork process in the F&I office requires change now more than ever. Dealerships that want to improve customer satisfaction scores in their F&I departments might do well to consider such options.

Chloe Hahn is the director of marketing and sales at Dynamsoft, a software company focusing on image processing solutions. She leads all digital initiatives, including market positioning, pricing strategy and more. Hahn also develops the company’s strategic sales plans.