When I was first asked to write an article on the top trends providers are looking out for, my first thought was “everything.” Hence, the reason we just created a new position in our company focused on this very issue – trends…or should I say “requirements” to stay in business in today’s market.
Outside of the resurgence of leasing, which I will address later in the article, I believe the most important and critical trend to be proactive on is technology. This can encompass about 20 or more areas in our business, ranging from eContracting, eRating and eRemittance, to integration, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Web pages, user interface, reporting, industry blogs and much more. To only focus on one of them would be impossible. Providers need to have their hands in the whole pot to stay afloat.
At the recent Agent Summit (which was a huge success this year in my opinion), it was very apparent that eBusiness, in general, is a hot topic. To a provider such as NAE, software integration, with as many menu and software providers, is crucial. The easier we make it for our clients to use this technology, the more it will be used. Understanding that the more this technology is used, the faster and more accurately we can process the customer’s agreement, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction at the agency, dealer and end user level.
Having every possible access point to this technology available to a dealer will be critical for future success. This could include access through the DMS (as provided by PEN), through a portal that hosts many providers (like F&I Admin), through menu providers (like Fusion or MenuVantage) or directly through the provider’s Web site, like the direct dealer and agent portal through our Web site. All of these options are necessary requirements for a full-service provider. While some dealers are very sophisticated and quickly adapt to new market trends and technology offerings, others may not have a nationally recognized DMS provider, or may choose to eRate/Contract/Remit without any DMS or menu integration. It is important as a provider to have a comprehensive suite of options, with and without integration, which can be tailored to a dealers and agent’s specific wants and needs.
All of these examples require a tremendous amount of focus, testing and resources available at the provider level. Accommodating these needs can be quite difficult due to the competitive nature and continual changes of our business. Just as you think you have “done it all,” another avenue opens up and you are back to the drawing board – change is constant!
Add to that the need to stay up-to-date on industry blogs, social networking and Internet marketing and it becomes a full-time job just to keep up!
As mentioned above, another trend that we are paying particular attention to and working avidly with our agents and dealers on, is leasing. Leasing is like having a delicious candy bar – it tastes so good while you are eating it (getting the initial sale), but not so good while it is digesting (the backend loss of F&I gross profit).
As a provider, we must be committed to staying focused on how to help our agents, dealers and most importantly, F&I managers, find ways to sell value-added products to lease consumers. It can be done, but it takes training and a revamping of product offerings and menu set-up to be successful. So many agents, dealers and F&I managers throw their hands up and say, “well, it was a lease” or “well, our lease penetration was really high, hence the drop in F&I profitability.” It is like a cash deal. If we focus and believe in what we have to offer, the customer can be sold!
As a provider, we know we can’t give up – no matter what the manufacturers or the market throws at our dealers and agents, we have to continue to change with the trends, knowing that so many livelihoods depend on our adaptability and flexibility. What worked, even as short as 12 months ago, may not be working today. We can never stop training and finding ways to make it easier for our agents and dealers to thrive in the environment which they are facing each and every day.