Recording F&I Transactions? Here Are Three Things To Consider

 An editor of Automotive News recently reported on a seminar held at a F&I conference where the panelist generally endorsed using video cameras to record transactions in the F&I office.  There are pros and cons to recording these transactions.  While recordings can be helpful tools for enforcing compliance, training staff, and rebutting accusations by consumers of wrongdoing in the F&I office, they can also be the “smoking gun” of unlawful business practices that provide plaintiffs or regulators with the evidence needed to impose costly penalties and damages.

Deciding whether to record F&I transactions takes more thought than merely selecting what equipment to use.  Before you get your cameras rolling, you should consider the following:

Will You Record Every Transaction?  That one transaction your staff forgets to record could be the one where problems arise.  Worse, an employee who is violating the law may selectively record transactions or edit recordings in order to hide any transgressions.  If you decide to record your F&I staff, you should consider mandating that every F&I transaction is recorded.   If a consumer refuses to be recorded, document the refusal, and maintain adequate records to help reconcile all transactions against ones recorded.

How Does Recording F&I Transactions Fit With Your Coaching And Counseling Processes?  You should train your staff on how to record the transactions, including obtaining the consumer’s informed consent.  This will require developing a consistent script to use with consumers to obtain consent, and some written document signed by the consumer evidencing consent.  You will need to designate who will review the videos and what remedial steps are taken when problems are discovered.  Remember, supervisors should not to use the videos in a manner that demeans or humiliates their subordinates.  These ‘candid camera’ moments, used at the expense of the employee, could provide ample evidence for an employment discrimination claim.

How Does Recording F&I Transactions Fit With Your Compliance Programs?  Laws such as the Safeguards Rule and the Red Flags Rule impact how you record F&I transactions and store the recordings.  It is likely that these recordings will capture information protected by state and federal law, such as nonpublic personal information, so you will have to take necessary steps to protect this information, and determine when breaches occur.  You will need to amend the documents and records you maintain for compliance programs accordingly.



I’ve Posted Some Videos to YouTube!

I’m trying to learn as much as possible about blogging, vlogging, and other forms of social media.  So I decided to create an Auto Law JD YouTube page.  I’m going to use it as a testbed for several form of videos and content distribution.  From there, you’ll find reviews of products that I’ve tried out and some videos of my hobbies.  Right now, I’m learning about my new HD camcorder, the Canon Vixia HF M52.  So I tested it out yesterday around my home town.  Here are the videos:

Video Walkarounds Done Right

If you work at a dealership and want to learn how to present a vehicle in a video walk around on YouTube, the first place you should look is saabkyle04’s channel.  Watch the video above to see what I mean.  Here are the points I think a saabkyle04 in training can take away from this master of video reviews of cars on YouTube.

Consistency:  Whether saabklye04 is reviewing a Ferrari, a Ford, or a Fiat, he has a consistent presentation in each and every one of his videos.  Sometimes he may deviate on  the introduction (as seen with the video above on the Mustang), but each of his videos otherwise are strikingly consistent.  Viewers appreciate this as they know what to expect and what information saabklye04 will share with them.

Enthusiasm:  You can tell how much saabkyle04 enjoys what he is doing.  If he doesn’t, he fooled me and probably many of his viewers.  Remember that no matter how your day may be going, you have to be top notch when presenting your product.  If you’re having an off day and can’t shake your feelings, save the video for another day.

Descriptions and Tags:  Think about if George Lucas filmed Star Wars but only showed it to his friends.  YouTube videos are no different.  You can make the best content around, but if you don’t distribute it, no one is going to see your efforts.  Check out saabkyle04’s descriptions of the videos.  Also, pay attention to how he tags his videos.  In this particular video, he has over 60 tags.  In a nutshell, tags are words you use to describe to YouTube what your video is about.  All of his tags help YouTube determine whether his video is relevant to a particular viewer’s search.  His view count (the number of times his video has been played) shows that his distribution model works and he’s getting his videos in front of many viewers.

Know Your Stuff:  Saabkyle04 shows the viewer that he knows his material.  Prepare and study your product so you come across to the viewer that you know what you’re talking about.  Practice your presentation, and don’t be afraid to do several takes to dial in your presentation.

Editing/Sound/Lighting:  To me, many videos on YouTube suffer from poor sound, editing and lighting.  When choosing a video camera, make sure that you have one that has good sound recording capabilities and consider using an external mic.  When filming, check to see how well the vehicle and surrounding area is lit and whether your camera can handle the lighting of the environment properly.  The more expensive the video camera, typically, the better low light performance it has.  Cameras such as a flip or an iPhone require lots of lighting to make good video so keep that in mind when choosing the area to record your video.  Also, once you’ve finished your video, use editing software to make it look great and flow as well as it should.

Never Stop Learning:  Embrace change that comes with new techniques and technology.  See how to tweak your videos for better results.  Understand analytics offered by YouTube on your videos and test how to increase your viewer count.  Don’t be afraid to participate with your peers on forums such as Kain Automotive Idea Exchange and Driving Sales and learn from them.

If you have any examples of great video walk arounds on automobiles, powersport vehicles or anything else, post them below.

Automated Slide Shows vs. Walk Arounds for Dealership Generated Digital Content

HD video cameras such as the Flip and content hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo ushered a golden age of sharing digital video content.  Before this democratization of digital content creation and distribution, it was prohibitively expensive for dealerships to fully leverage existing technology to create compelling visual content.  Back then, because of these costs and distribution venues limited to broadcast/cable television, the format of video content was almost exclusively commercials, focused on particular bargains offered for a limited time, and to a lesser extent, infomercials, which spanned a wide variety of topics.  Very rarely would you see dealership-generated content broadcast on television that varied from a deal-specific advertising message.

Now, with a HD video camera, relatively inexpensive and standard on a host of smartphones such as the iPhone, and decent editing software, dealers can create compelling digital content and distribute this content to viewers in their local market and around the world.  But, while the tools are more accessible than before, the challenge now is creating content that resonates with consumers.  Various vendors that serve the automotive industry have stepped in to fill this content void that many stores face.

At my previous dealership, we used a service similar to the dealer below to generate content for YouTube.  This format is known as a ‘slide show’ because the video is created using photography provided by the dealer:

Some dealers are using another approach, which is to generate content specific to a particular vehicle in a “walk-around” format created by an actual person and not a digital service.  In the automotive industry, a walk-around is a presentation on a vehicle where a sales person literally walks a customer around the vehicle, noting particular features and benefits that the vehicle has.  For example, with the customer at the rear of the vehicle, the sales person may explain the LED tail lights that are standard on the vehicle and how LED lighting fires quicker and is brighter on average that a typical bulb, which notifies people who you are in front of, thereby reducing the risk of accidents.   Below is an example of this approach:

The slide shows are automated, while the walk-around presentation above is labor and time intensive.  The quality of a particular walk-around presentation depends solely on the skill and expertise of whoever at the dealership is tasked with creating this content.  If the dealership has the wrong person making this video, a consumer may be turned off because of issues with the video like poor audio, poor video or poor information provided in the video.  While slide shows are not labor intensive, do not rely on the skills of the dealership’s employees, and can be executed on a consistent and timely basis, they are far from perfect.  The program often mispronounces features and equipment, is very impersonal and may not highlight the features and benefits important to consumers.

So, which do you think is a more effective method?  If you were looking to purchase a vehicle, which format would give the seller top-of-mind awareness, assuming quality was the same?  How should a dealership measure effectiveness; views on YouTube, conversions on the dealer’s website, or some other method?  Is there a place for both, or neither, in a dealer’s digital marketing plans?