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A FRESH survey of dealership finance customers has confirmed that introducing car buyers to their funding options early in the sales process – even online through dealership websites – will pay dividends because the majority of buyers indicated they are prepared to consider the finance before they have even started looking for a car.

These are the trends identified by Op2ma which has just released its 2018 Australian National Finance and Insurance Customer Survey Report. Op2ma is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fusion Business Solutions and is Australia’s leading provider of F&I solutions, consulting and customer engagement to the automotive industry

The survey was of F&I customers across 15 dealership groups and 500 dealerships in five states covering 30 OEMs and 10 financiers.

One of the key findings is that the traditional method of relying on the business manager to organise funding after the vehicle sale has been made was at odds with what customers wanted and that the dealership should promote its finance products earlier – either before or during the sales process.

The survey showed that as many as 74 per cent of the buyers who organised their funding outside the dealership were open to considering their finance options before they even began looking for a car. In this group, only five per cent would consider finance after meeting a business manager.

This contrasts with the finance customers who organised their funding through the dealership where a lower 49 per cent said they would consider their finance options before they started looking for a car, and 11 per cent said they would consider their finance options after they had seen the business manager.

Op2ma national manager for dealer solutions, Ann Cawkwell, told GoAutoNews Premium: “One of the main results we found was that finance needs to be spoken about earlier in the sales process. Even before the customer comes into the dealership.

“This means that dealerships need to improve their websites to include financing options and to even give the customers the opportunity to complete applications and get quotes online,” Ms Cawkwell said.

“So they are shopping online looking at different cars but they also want to see what the dealership has to offer in the way of finance. They wanted to apply in advance of going to the dealership. I was quite surprised by that. I did not think so many people would want that.”

Ms Cawkwell said that getting the finance on the agenda very early in the piece was really tying in with the methods that vehicle financiers are recommending for dealers to adopt in response to the new ASIC rules.

“These results match up exactly with that,” Ms Cawkwell said. “Customers are demanding that they want to do their shopping before they walk in; the same as they are doing with their car they are doing with their finance.”

The Op2ma report said that the timing of the introduction of finance options into the sales process has a direct effect on penetration and business managers could have a meaningful influence over a customer’s choice to use dealership finance or not.

“Because of this, dealerships should look to promote finance products earlier (either before or during the sales process) rather than being completely dependent on a business manager to introduce the option after the sale,” it said.

The Op2ma report said that the two most effective ways to introduce customers to finance prior to the sale were through a dealer website or by phone.

“An opportunity exists for dealerships and business managers to get to customers earlier in the sales process. A large percentage of customers are happy to be contacted via telephone so more work could be done (including through web chat or email) to inform customers of their finance options, without the physical need to visit the dealership,” it said.

“Phone enquiries could be handled by either a business manager or specialist inbound team before being handed over to a salesperson to ensure accuracy of information.

“Finance is not well promoted on dealership websites and customers have proven if there is not sufficient information online, they tend to steer away from online channels.

“Notably, a fifth of customers who cannot find sufficient information are still interested in purchasing online.”

The report found that business managers were still important to the finance sales process.

It said: “The overwhelming majority still prefer to interact with a business manager at some point in the sales process. So, whilst website promotion can be considered a good channel to reach customers early, face-to-face sales remain the preferred purchasing approach for most.

“To accommodate this, dealer websites should be used in conjunction with face-to-face sales to improve penetration, ‘set the deal up’ and maximise customer satisfaction.”

The survey also found that the largest majority of customers choose their payment method for reasons of convenience.

“‘Lower payments’ is the least popular choice, suggesting customers are not simply after the cheapest option and are willing to pay extra for clarity, ease, speed and ‘peace of mind’, among other things,” it said.

Almost 40 per cent of customers mentioned convenience as the main choice behind their payment method.

ALL CUSTOMERS IN THE SURVEY REPORTED:

  • 28 per cent prefer to complete online F&I research / purchase (if possible).
  • 69 per cent spend under two hours researching F&I options.
  • Six per cent organise finance on an alternate site.
  • One per cent organise dealership finance online.

For a full copy of the 2018 Australia National Finance & Insurance Customer Survey Report email: Annc@op2ma.com.au

By Neil Dowling

Manheim
Gumtree