Digital remedies are helping soothe a customer sore point at car dealerships: too much time spent in the F&I office.

“Customer satisfaction plummets after 90 minutes,” says Chase Abbott, vice president-sales for VinSolutions and Dealertrack F&I, Cox Automotive brands that respectively provide customer-relationship and dealer-management software systems. “Time can kill deals.”


One way to streamline sessions in the F&I office is to electronically provide the business manager with data garnered from a car shopper’s digital activities, including vehicles they showed an interest in and credit-application information they provided.

“If the information is front-loaded, it avoids a lot of duplication,” Abbott says. “You are not manually entering information that’s already out there.”

Streamlining tools include Dealertrack’s DealTransfer. It enables integration of third-party vendor platforms with Dealertrack’s credit-application software, eliminating the need for a dealership to re-enter data from one system into the other.

Customers who provide credit-application information online are relatively honest about it, says Jason Barrie, vice president and general manager-Dealertrack F&I.

They are more likely to lie in person, he says. “The worse the credit score is, the more lying there is,” Abbott adds.

Barrie cites the difference between saving time and not doing a rush job in the F&I office. Buying a car is an involved transaction. “You are not buying a dishwasher,” he says. “F&I managers are extremely smart and sophisticated.”

Having credit information upfront – before the online shopper enters the dealership and the F&I office – helps F&I managers put customers in vehicles they can afford, “so there are no delusions when the customer comes in,” Abbott says. Minimum-wage earners may covet a $138,000 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, but they’re not going to get financing for one.  

More and more dealership websites are beginning to highlight F&I products online, such as extended-service agreements, gap insurance and wheel-and-tire protection.

Pushing back, some F&I traditionalists say it’s much more effective to sell such products person-to-person.

But providing F&I product information online helps familiarize shoppers before they arrive at the dealership and sit down with an F&I manager, Barrie says. “If they do their homework, customers know in advance what gap insurance is.”

An industry adage is that people are more likely to buy something they are familiar with. “You can begin to sell F&I online,” Abbott says.

New digital tools give dealers the option to post F&I prices on their websites, says Emil Banga, Cox’s senior director-product management.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com