In this opinion piece from Gerry Kouris, marketing manager at Alphera Financial Services, on the importance of incentivising finance and insurance salespeople in the right way.

With greater regulatory scrutiny than ever before, treating customers fairly has never been more important for car retailers. The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) final review of the motor finance sector is due soon and we expect that one area of focus will be the best ways in which to incentivise finance and insurance (F&I) salespeople. Now is therefore the right time for dealers and car finance brokers to ensure that they are engaging with customers in a positive way – and for lenders to consider the most appropriate methods of incentivising their partners.

Alphera is therefore challenging the industry to find new ways of doing this, with an innovative new incentive scheme for our UK dealer and broker partners in 2019. In contrast to other incentive schemes, our initiative will reward partners who simply generate the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

Instead of encouraging dealers to prioritise contract volumes and sales, the industry as a whole should instead promote a single-minded focus on raising customer satisfaction. This should be the only way in which a car finance provider measures its success.

This can be achieved by applying specialist skills and knowledge to reinforce FCA-compliant sales practices. Throughout the incentive period, finance sales specialists working for our UK partners will ask their customers to complete a survey after taking out a finance agreement with Alphera.

The survey focuses solely on customers’ experiences of taking out car finance. This includes the customer’s opinion on how easy it was to do business with the dealership, the ability of the sales staff to accurately assess the customer’s demands and needs, and the clarity of information provided. From this, Alphera can gauge how satisfied the customer was in the finance sales process – and, crucially, whether there is any scope for dealers to improve. Dealers and brokers are ranked according to levels of customer satisfaction achieved.

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By prioritising positive customer outcomes this approach can encourage sales behaviours that comply with FCA regulations. In this instance, Alphera will reward partners with the highest customer satisfaction scores with an educational (and entertaining) trip to the 2020 National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in Las Vegas.

We believe that the development of specialist skills and knowledge relating to the sale of car finance is essential to the success of dealers and brokers. The incentive scheme will therefore promote the notion of education, with bonus points available to businesses enrolling their staff in specialist finance qualifications from industry bodies. This includes the Institute of the Motor Industry’s (IMI) new finance and insurance accreditation scheme, as well as Specialist Automotive Finance qualifications from the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA). Both organisations are committed to helping members to offer the highest possible standards in the sales of car finance products – it’s appropriate that finance sellers are incentivised for achieving these standards.

Consistency is key if sales specialists are to provide outstanding customer service, and monthly updates to participating partners will help to promote a consistent application of best sales practice. This is an ongoing effort, however, and following the scheme we will compile reports to be shared with participants, detailing their performance throughout the survey period. Furthermore, it will offer insights into customers’ experiences. It is our hope and expectation that dealers can use this feedback to refine and develop their sales processes where needed.

It is imperative that we constantly challenge ourselves to improve, and it is incumbent on lenders to help dealers and brokers provide the best possible service to customers. Ultimately, a customer happy with the service they receive is more likely to return to the business in the future. By investing time in customer satisfaction, and seeking to improve sales standards through incentivisation and education, dealers can reap the long-term rewards of repeat business – and, potentially, increased profitability.

By Gerry Kouris, marketing manager, Alphera Financial Services