At the 2019 Industry Summit, five F&I technology companies competed in the second annual Technology Challenge, an interactive session featuring rapid-fire presentations followed by an audience vote.

“Technology Challenge is a competition in the truest sense of the word,” said David Gesualdo, Industry Summit show chair and publisher of Bobit Business Media’s Dealer Group. “Providers get a chance to demo their wares, and attendees get to recognize their favorites.”

This year’s lineup of competitors included both technology and service providers. First to take the stage was Line\5’s business development specialist, Jennifer Richter. Immediately following, we heard 700Credit’s pitch by Bob Lettis, the company’s vice president of strategic alliances and business development. Presenting on behalf of AutoFi, head of digital retail, Joe St. John, captivated attendees during their portion of the Challenge. Next up, reigning winner Your Dealer Experience (YDE) was ready to take on their competitors with a presentation by Steven Apicella, president of Strategic DX, home of the YDE platform. Last, but certainly not least, Reynolds and Reynolds’ director or product planning, Ed Pontis, closed the show with his presentation.

A Step Ahead of the Competition

“For AutoFi, that means being a trusted partner that delivers on our vision of becoming the industry standard digital shopping and purchase experience,” AutoFi’s St. John said.

He added that as a company they are staying ahead by investing in the dealer success organization that takes care of our customers so they realize the value and benefits from embracing AutoFi, and, a product purchase experience that reduces friction and creates trust between the customer and dealer.

Leading up the event, P&A spoke with a few of this year’s competitors to see what they are doing to stay a step ahead of the competition and if they had any tips or advice for companies working to develop and, subsequently, integrate new products and services into the F&I industry.

"It’s cliché, but always true: By strengthening others, we strengthen ourselves.” 

Your Dealer Experience’s, Apicella, said their company takes significant pride in observing and learning from the many important perspectives that are touched by their solution. Looking through the eyes of the customer, dealer, agent, service provider and TPA, he added, helps them engineer and deploy solutions with meaningful and unique value. 

 “The Achilles heal of seizing opportunity is when a solution is only measured by how it selfishly helps the one delivering it. There is tremendous currency when we deliver solutions based on how it will truly serve the needs of others.”

Lettis of 700Credit believes companies should continue to try new ideas and concepts to see what works for a particular dealership. Find a company with a product, idea, or concept that will stand behind their product or recommended process by offering a free trial with vendor support to prove that their concept will work for the dealer. 700Credit offers this and, reportedly, dealers are much more willing to try new concepts if it is a win-win for all.

“Dealers should start to take notice of the changing customer preferences driven by the online solutions that are creating a more rewarding car shopping experience. It is not something to be feared but it should be embraced and included into brick and mortar experience. The solutions are already here and waiting for the dealers.”

Read: Digital Fragmentation and the Importance of SSO Utility

Line\5 provides financing outside of the auto finance deal to help dealers sell F&I products. Richter said the company builds systems that work for everyone involved, listening is the most important thing they do, and they always take feedback very seriously. If users request something or have an idea to make something better, they make those changes for them to have a great user experience. To remain accommodating and a team player, they have an in-house engineering team that develops their own proprietary software but can also accommodate every dealership request. 

“I love going to these events as well as presenting in front of the F&I industry. When the Tech Challenge was offered, I thought to myself, ‘Wow! A room full of people wanting to learn more about what we love to do.’ Doesn’t get better than that.”

A Winner is Crowned

Industry Summit attendees had the opportunity to cast their votes digitally as event organizers tracked the progress. On the final day of the event, attendees and Technology Challenge competitors gathered for the results. And, for the second consecutive year, Your Dealer Experience would be retuning to the office on Monday morning with another win!

For those of you who were not able to attend, P&A spoke with the company’s presenter, Steven Apicella, to get a brief explanation of what went into the winning presentation. 

“Our presentation highlighted our dealer/customer engagement platform and how it fuels the modern ‘experience’ of owning an F&I product. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, and the subsequent advancements in the modern smartphone era, the F&I portion of the automotive industry has not fully leveraged these powerful devices and their mass adoption across all generations,” he said.

Apicella then posed some questions, that he said really got attendees thinking during his presentation: Should a customer or service advisor be able to engage with all their purchased F&I products in one modern app with the ability to fully process a claim when service is needed, even when multiple F&I third-party administrators exist? 

Further, should they be able to have full transparency of their agreement details in one app, especially when multiple TPAs exist? Should the selling dealer be able to engage their customers with push notifications and stylized messages for a post sales connection in the same app where their customer can engage with their purchased F&I products? 

“This is a wakeup call for our industry,” said Apicella. “Millennials and Gen Zs aren’t coming, they’re already here. Truth is, Gen Xs and Baby Boomers expect the same simple accessibility and convenience. YDE is a transformative, organic pathway to solve this significant industry problem. We’re not asking the dealer or TPA to change their current admin software as a requirement to engage. YDE is a pure customer experience horsepower plug-in, powered by the TPAs, for all F&I products including mechanical, limited warranty, ancillary, GAP/DAP, theft, roadside assistance, and whatever else is offered or can be imagined in the F&I world.”

Read: Close the Gap in the F&I Product Origination Process

Apicella said he believes the multiple TPA environment is a reality and asked us to think about it from their perspective. 

“Deploying an app today that only connects to one F&I TPA’s products or that only processes certain types of claims contributes to the current customer/dealer engagement nightmare, it doesn’t solve it. With YDE, we didn’t just digitize the claims process, we’ve dramatically improved it to the betterment of all. The F&I TPAs gain a simplified user experience to intelligently improve claim processing speed, data accuracy, increased loss control, TPA managed auto adjudication and significantly reduced call volume.” 

During the presentation, Apicella noted that it is just as important that the TPA, agent, and dealer gain a significant sword to wield on the emerging battlefield of customer experience, exceeding the expectations of today’s customer. The service advisor also improves their customer engagement strength with a logical process to deliver F&I product service, overcoming the maze of disconnected TPA pathways that today distracts from a positive retention opportunity. And lastly, by endorsing the dealer in this unified platform, it transforms outdated private branding methods into the next generation dealer/customer private experience.

“We’re proud to have won the Industry Summit Technology Challenge in 2018 and 2019, said Apicella.  “Thank you to all that voted and who support this important mission. Leaders have emerged and more continue to engage, leveraging the power of Your Dealer Experience. It’s cliché, but always true: By strengthening others, we strengthen ourselves.” 


About the author
Kate Spatafora

Kate Spatafora

Managing Editor

Kate Spatafora is the Associate Publisher for MG Business Media.

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