Equifax auto finance leader Lou Loquasto said technology discussions simply can’t be missed whether it was back in November during Used Car Week or when the American Financial Service Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association gather for their annual events in New Orleans later this month.
“Anybody that went to (Used Car Week) or is going to NADA or AFSA — I’ve been going to these conferences for 20 years — they can see how much innovation is going on,” Loquasto told SubPrime Auto Finance News before 2016 closed. “I think because margins are going to continue to be tough to get to the levels post-recession, growth isn’t going to be where it was. So I think 2017 is going to be the year of innovation in our industry.
“When we talk about innovation in our industry, it’s not just about technology. It’s data and analytics, too,” he continued. “In 2017, I think you’re going to see more innovation coming out of our industry because you’re going to have to if you want to keep good margins and continue to grow.”
While most dealerships and finance companies aren’t strangers to technology, the advancements these constituencies have made in the past 15 years evidently still lags consumers’ expectations. According to the Expectations & Experiences quarterly consumer research from Fiserv, the company learned that 53 percent of borrowers had negative feelings about the financing process, including 33 percent who said it made them anxious.
In a phone conversation last month with SubPrime Auto Finance News, Fiserv’s Scott Hendriks added that within the contingent that had negative feelings, 78 percent of those respondents said there needed to be greater efficiencies in the finance process.
“It’s still a very dealer-driven model, going back into the F&I office to determine what rates and programs are available. What’s my payment going to be on a lease or what’s going to be my rate on a retail deal? I think that part of it is still very much in dealer control. I think consumers are looking to have more transparency and take that process online,” said Hendriks, who is director of product management at Fiserv Lending Solutions.
Since joining Fiserv in 2002, Hendriks has been very involved in the development of the company’s auto loan origination system product.
“I think what we’re going to see over the next period of time is that evolution where that very dealer-driven model we have today for finance is going to go the way of the sales process, which is more to a consumer model where they’re able to determine those things up front and arrange financing online. So it is when they go to the dealership a one-stop delivery. It meets the borrower’s expectation of their time as well as their experience,” he said.
“Technology is really at the forefront of how that’s going to happen. Lenders need to have technology assets that allow them give the customer that experience and be able to engage with them online at the point of decision on the purchase as opposed to waiting until they go to the dealership,” Hendriks went on to say.
More of the same sentiment came from the 2016 U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study produced by J.D. Power. The firm made its assertions in light of expectations of new-vehicle sales to plateau this year, prompting Jim Houston, senior director of auto finance at J.D. Power to say, the marketplace “is making for a very competitive auto lending market, which means dealers and lenders in many ways need to get back to the basics to satisfy customers.
“Lenders need to move beyond a transactional relationship and create a customer-centric culture that helps them build a relationship with their customers. The lenders — and dealers — that are able to do that are the ones most likely to excel,” Houston added.
The J.D. Power study highlighted what analysts called five fundamental “musts” that a dealer or finance should keep in mind as means to improving customer satisfaction.
That collection included:
— Understanding the Deal: In the luxury brand segment, overall satisfaction is 49 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) among customers whose dealer or finance manager explained account features, services, or benefits of their financing than among those whose dealer or finance manager did not (880 versus 831, respectively).
— Reference Guide: A finance company welcome package that answers basic loan servicing questions (such as how to make payments and how to sign up for automatic payments) can reduce the number of contacts the customer needs to make. Specifically, among luxury brand customers who say they “completely” understand all of the servicing information, problem incidence drops to 8 percent, compared with the overall luxury problem incidence of 10 percent.
— Accessible Self-Help Tools: When email customer service is available, satisfaction improves by 42 points among customers of luxury brand vehicles and 61 points among customers of mass market brand vehicles. When online bill pay is available, satisfaction improves by 53 points in the luxury segment and by 86 points in the mass market segment.
—One and Done: Satisfaction declines significantly when a customer has to contact their finance company more than once to resolve a problem. Overall satisfaction among luxury brand customers resolving a problem with one call is 875 points but declines to 821 among those whose resolution requires two calls.
—Satisfaction Equals Loyalty: Highly satisfied luxury and mass market brand customers (overall satisfaction scores above 900) can have a significant effect on dealers and lenders, as they are nearly twice as likely to return to a particular dealership and are more than twice as likely to lease or purchase the same brand again as those who are less satisfied (scores range between 801 and 900).
“In the seemingly complicated environment of vehicle financing, it’s the sometimes-overlooked customer handling steps that can bring clarity to the customer and give dealers and lenders a unique competitive advantage,” Houston said.
“Working together on the steps that clearly affect satisfaction levels can enable dealers and lenders to turn first-time customers into repeat customers,” he added.
-Article By Nick Zulovich