Being an RV finance and insurance professional can be a daunting task for many people across this nation. Often the first step when starting an F&I career in an RV dealership is managing oneself or a team and learning to test one’s skills.
As this is the first 2022 training column from Brown & Brown Insurance, Dealer Services Division, we want to tackle some concerns and uneasiness an F&I manager may experience.
You must evaluate how you will be perceived, in nature and appearance, by your customers and team. When we were children and young adults, our parents told us first impressions are particularly important. I remember my mother saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
A first date is an excellent example of a situation where we want to make a good impression. Imagine for a minute your initial encounter with a new RV owner entering your office as if it were a first date. What can you do as an F&I professional to make that experience easy and pleasurable for the consumer? How can you ensure your effort will result in a positive transaction with that customer?
Science News had this to say about first-date impressions: “We find the high stakes of first dates require would-be partners to make and interpret first impressions. But can we rely on these first impressions to accurately assess someone’s personality? According to researchers from McGill University, the answer is yes, although it may be more difficult than in more casual settings.”
During training with any new F&I professional, we ask the F&I manager a simple question, “Mr. or Mrs. Business Manager, when you walked into work this morning and stepped into your office, would you spend $100,000 of your hard-earned money in this office today?”
This is a first impression question that, if you cannot emphatically answer yes, signals a change is immediately necessary. That is why first impressions are so important.
When customers meet us, the look and feel of our office is the first thing they notice. If customers see other customers’ paperwork strewn across your desk or peeking out of file folders on your office shelving, they may assume you are not trustworthy with nor respect others’ personal information.
A clean and orderly desk and credenza show a customer you are a neat and orderly professional. Their personal information is secure and will be treated with the utmost care.
Federal law requires you to protect customers’ personal information. Protecting any person’s private or personal information is also common sense. An organized office shows consumers you are a professional trustworthy to handle their private and personal information. This effort goes a long way to making them feel comfortable and confident with you, your office, the dealership and their new RV purchase.
It is important to remember, RVs are a large investment, so consumers should consider our offices more like a banker’s office than what consumers may have expected in that first encounter. Posters and brochures lining your office walls may hint to customers about the product and coverages you offer but may not be what you want to convey in an initial encounter. A new RV owner sitting in your office for the first time may feel intimated and become uncomfortable, fearing they will be pressured into buying something over and above their new RV.
I believe F&I offices decorated with décor showing pictures of camping scenes, national parks or Go RVing lifestyle posters are more appropriate. They make a better first impression, enabling customers to feel relaxed with you and their surroundings. After all, camping is why they are purchasing a new RV!
Some years ago, when helping me decorate my own office, my wonderful wife introduced me to a store called Hobby Lobby. Consider a quick trip to a craft store like Hobby Lobby to gather some simple RVing decorations. This decision can be priceless. The simple touches can change an F&I office’s appearance and completely alter customers’ first impressions. Embrace the RV lifestyle.
Psychology of Color
Can my wall color and artwork influence how a customer feels in my office? They can.
“Human brains are wired to experience light as an indicator of time of day, and as such, a kind of barometer for how focused or laid back we should be,” said Ben Hamley, future of work lead at JLL Asia Pacific. Shades of blue help instill a calmer, more relaxed time of day—based on how much light is outside—and give your office a sense of relaxation.
Offices shaded red, a more intense color, may remind them of a stop sign or negative feelings. Negative vibes may prevent customers from unwinding and relaxing in your office. Therefore, the color of your office can profoundly change how customers behave and react to you as a business manager as you offer them ancillary protection plans.
This should go without saying: Keep your office clean.
If you knew how many offices I have gone through in just the last year that were dusty, grimy and had food crumbs everywhere, you would understand why I believe this must be said.
A clean office is vacuumed or has polished floors. All shelves are dusted. Using an actual cleanser on your desk and other simple maintenance will make people feel more comfortable with you as a trusted F&I professional. Keeping your office in excellent order indicates you will also take great care with a financial transaction’s details.
When I visit dealerships, I make a point to quickly visually inspect the F&I office to make a mental checklist of each point mentioned in this article. You should do the same when you arrive at work and walk into your work environment.
After making your office inviting, think about how to make yourself pleasing and open to the customer.
Consider the clothes you wear and even the color of your shirts. Wearing more neutral, green or blue tones likely makes us more appealing during a first impression. If we wear a suit in a more casual atmosphere, we may appear overdressed for RV customers, which may be a bit intimidating.
We always want to look professional. Make sure your work attire matches the RV lifestyle and your dealership’s uniform or dress requirements. A little attention and consideration to your appearance can make an enormous difference in customers’ reactions when meeting you.
Changes Grow Sales
The first step on the road to being an industry-leading F&I professional starts with you, your office, your appearance and what you wear. Having a clean and organized office, protecting customers’ personal information, and providing a comfortable office atmosphere is essential to creating a positive first “date-like” impression and experience for your clientele.
Through the many years of working with F&I professionals nationwide, we have seen many F&I office transformations result in as much as a 3% to 4% increase in average F&I revenue. When you implement change to create better first impressions, sales grow.
Look around and consider how your office’s appearance and organization as well as your clothing can alter the customer experience. An excellent first impression is truly the first step to creating a wonderful F&I experience for customers, and a profitable F&I experience for your business.
Remember, when you walk into your office at work tomorrow morning, ask yourself, “Would I spend $100,000 with myself today?” Be honest with your answer and evaluate if things need to change.
Shawn Moran is the national RV and marine training director with Brown & Brown Insurance, Dealer Services Division. He started his career in 2002 as a business manager at an automotive dealership in upstate New York. In 2003, Moran became a successful finance director for a multilocation RV and marine dealership. In November 2008, he opened his agency, F&I Consulting Unlimited, where he quickly became known for his work ethic and knowledge of the RV industry. In July 2013, Brown & Brown bought the agency, creating the largest RV master general agency in the country. Moran provides personalized finance training to RV business managers. He conducts numerous weekly training sessions with small and large RV groups.