Tag Archive | "menu"

Wise F&I Integrates with OptionSoft Technologies

St. Louis, Mo.  – Wise F&I is a leading finance and insurance product provider connecting automotive dealers to their products through menu integration. The recent integration with OptionSoft Technologies allows dealers to access of Wise F&I products through one of the leading menu providers in the automotive software industry. Wise F&I has its full suite of branded products including GAPWise, WiseCARE, TIREWise, WiseTVP, THEFTWise and KEYWise, all available on the OptionSoft menu. The integration provides up-to-date pricing, speed and accuracy for the dealership. Wise F&I and OptionSoft integration in turn deliver a better car buying experience.

“We are always looking at ways to create efficiencies and to better support the car buyer,” said Matt Croak, President, Wise F&I. “OptionSoft supports that through our products direct availability on their menu system.”

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Did We Get It Right?

Let’s just jump right into this subject of technology. We can have discussions from here to eternity about new solutions that provide real-time reports covering everything from product production to F&I performance and other items in between, but at the forefront of what is most important and being used by the retail industry daily is of course some type of “menu”. There are so many different products available to F&I today that delivering an effective and consistent presentation to the retail customer is not realistic without a menu. But the paper menu appears to have had its day, and the tablet-based F&I presentation is gaining steam — much to the chagrin, it is assumed, of older car buyers.

Let’s discuss the reasoning behind these developments and why process will always be more important than the customer’s age.

Equal Opportunity Sales

There are many reputable menu providers, all of whom say they have the best product for today’s consumer. Additionally, many offer some type of menu usage report functionality, and some even offer F&I production information. The big elephant in the room is a question no one asks of you, the providers. Let’s hold that thought for a moment but I promise we’ll get to what I think is that “real” question that needs to be asked.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the market. Today’s market is composed of many different “generations” of buyers. Arguably that has always been the case, but not during the technology boom we have seen in the last decade. We can start from the baby boomers and earlier all the way through the Millennials, with Generation X in between and Generation Y just now making their presence felt.

As buying power shifts from generation to generation, technology is developing and improving at an astounding rate. While we strive to make technology based product enhancements targeting the “current” generation, we chance leaving other generations out of the mix, so to speak. Do we ever ask ourselves if what we are developing will be well received by members of other generations that still make automobile purchases every day?

That brings us back to the “elephant in the room” question: How do you know you got it right?

Amazingly, the automobile industry still fails to do some of the most fundamental research into what the consumer does or doesn’t like or want. An example would be recently at the 2016 Agent Summit in Las Vegas, I asked a simple question of the esteemed technology panel; “has anyone ever held a focus group of consumers comprised of different generations, demonstrating what menu proposals were available and getting the invaluable consumer feedback that should drive the product?”

The panel looked like a herd of deer in the proverbial headlights. One panelist answered by saying his product is driven by the great results being realized by his dealer clients. Somewhat acceptable, but is that really the reason for any positive change in results? ’Did we have a change of F&I manager(s) that are now, but previously weren’t, fully utilizing the product’s capability? Did the dealer or general manager finally put their foot down and tell the finance department that their numbers were unacceptable, and based on the menu usage report functionality, told they either start using the tools available, get the numbers up or be replaced?

Do we fail the customer by continuing to make changes to a product as important as a menu based not on their feedback or input but on what we think the customer would like to see. I liken it to being self-employed: With no external pushback, we become legends in our own minds. Let’s face it, 20 Groups were developed not just to share some dinner, drinks and good laughs, but to share best practices. They allow dealers to get out of their comfort zones and get feedback and challenges from peers.

With that in mind, let’s discuss how each of today’s in-market generations respond to technology in the F&I office:

  • Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers represent about a third of the population, but they outspend younger adults by about $1 trillion. Boomers are not going quietly into the sunset. Additionally, study after study proves that, contrary to many public and media perceptions, Baby Boomers have a real interest in the continuing adoption of technology.

Michael Rogers, an author, futurist, consultant and former vice president of The Washington Post’s media division, led a series of focus group discussions. He concluded that Boomers will be a driving force behind the use of information technology in the next decade, particularly in the healthcare industry, one of the largest in our society. He commented further, that Boomers don’t want technology products that are complicated and cluttered with excessive features.

  • Generation X and Millennials: According to Forrester Research, Gen Xers mainly use technology for convenience purposes, such as online banking and shopping. Technology has yet to become central to their social lives, and this will likely remain the case.

Millennials, however, view technology as a critical part of their life and work. They are constantly “on” and connected. They tend to embrace new technologies for socializing and working, and they adapt quickly.

The Industry’s Next Move

More and more menu providers are now working diligently on developing a tablet version of what has typically been a desktop-only product. That leads to questions, the most important of which is; will there be “two-way” DMS integration.

Let’s be honest: It’s a challenge to get F&I pros to enter the data correctly the first time, let alone the second and third times. The need to re-enter some deal information when additional F&I products are sold highlights the importance of two-way DMS integration from any menu. It is often said that they don’t have time to do it right, but they do have time to do it over and over again.

The introduction of the tablet brings additional questions. How interactive should it be? Is the screen size too small? Do we still need the F&I manager, or do we let the tablet do the presentation? Do we hand it to the customer prior to their meeting with their F&I manager?

Every provider has a different spin on why there should or shouldn’t be some type of tablet presentation available. Some even argue that providers who are against the use of this tool are against it only because they have not yet developed a tablet solution of their own. It’s an interesting perspective and possibly true in some cases.

Some might say we need tablets to engage Millennials, who are comfortable with handheld devices. Others will say tablets scare Baby Boomers away. Still others will say the tablet robs F&I pros of the ability to customize the presentation.

I believe the answer is a lot simpler than we think. For decades, our industry has struggled to find the right solution to many issues that didn’t exist as recently as the early ’90s. There was a time when discussing the business model of selling vehicles through the Internet did nothing but get you thrown out of the dealer’s office.

Ask any dealer today how much income they would lose if they shut down their website. We can no longer dismiss new technology by saying, “This is the car business. We don’t do that.” Bull! By refusing to adapt, we become our own worst enemies. Basically, that comment says the courage to move through uncharted territory has no place in the industry. Really? We are smarter than that, and we can do much better.

It’s time to shelve our egos and stop pretending we know it all. Let’s dare to do something that this industry seems to never or at best rarely do: Ask the consumer! Imagine what would happen if we developed products and processes based on what the consumer is actually looking for, not what we think they are looking for.

To all the reputable providers out there, I say let’s finally start organizing some legitimate, credible consumer focus groups that will help us develop products and processes that will drive higher CSI scores and contribute to a process that leaves the dealer and the customer happy and satisfied.

For the purposes of this particular article, I lay out this challenge to all the outstanding menu providers: Imagine being first to market with a product that you can tell a dealer client was vetted by several consumer focus groups and developed accordingly. What a concept!

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How Technology is Changing F&I Presentations

“Kiosk” is a word that the F&I industry doesn’t like to use. But while it conjures up old-fashioned ideas of a self-serve style station in the middle of a busy showroom floor, expecting consumers to help themselves to F&I, that is not what today’s F&I kiosk setup looks like.

Today’s F&I managers, agents and providers are all seeking better ways to engage consumers. An engaged consumer is more relaxed, doesn’t see F&I as an “enemy” that must be conquered, and, in the end, is more likely to purchase products. They are more open to the benefits and how it will help them, and the dealer, agents and providers see a rise in profits. But none of that can happen without first breaking the engagement barrier.

There is no shortage of ideas in the industry for ways to do this, and there are many excellent options available. But between the traditional presentation – with either a piece of paper or an F&I manager sitting behind a desk – and the newer tablet technologies, there lies an alternative that has the capability to bring the best of both worlds together.

Rather than refer to the self-serve stations of yesterday, today’s kiosk setups are more of a hybrid form of presentation. They still bring the consumer back to the F&I office and away from the distractions of the sales floor. But rather than lead with an “us versus them” setup, with F&I across the desk from the consumer, these kiosks foster conversation. They are, generally, either a single, large touch screen that the F&I manager and consumer interact with together, or, in some cases, they are a dual-screen setup, with everyone able to look at, and interact with, the same information.

“The consumer can touch it, see it, feel it,” said Jim Maxim Jr., president and CEO, MaximTrak. “It engages the customer, and drives them into the presentation where they can click on things, get into the presentation, ask questions, get pricing. It brings a level of credibility and professionalism that wasn’t in the F&I office before, and takes the menu and makes it alive. It engages the customer in a way that a paper menu cannot.”

Erick Woods, president, MenuSys LLC, noted that the greater engagement from using touchscreen setups in F&I adds to the bottom line. His pilot store, which has been using F&I touchscreens for a year now, has seen an increase in PVR of 66%. “He says he owes it all to the menus and presentations we offer,” Woods said.

In general, Woods believes the average store will see an increase of about 20% in their rates, versus the traditional paper menu system; he hasn’t tracked the performance versus iPad selling, but he said that he sees several problems with iPads. One being the cost – a basic iPad costs about two thirds more than a touchscreen monitor for a computer in today’s market – as well as the costs associated with having such portable items either walk out the door, or get dropped or broken. Another issue he sees in the iPad is the size – 9.7 inches versus a 20- or 22-inch monitor. “it’s a tiny screen,” he said, “and do you want to be reaching into the finance manager’s hand and be touching things? No – so it’s still finance manager controlled, but when you turn the big screen toward them and invite them to touch things, there you go – winner every time.”

“The dirty little secret is that customers hate F&I,” said Mark Thorpe, president, The Impact Group. “They absolutely abhor the experience; and we’re all prisoners of past experience.” The push to find new ways to present products, he noted, is in response to that paradigm. “It seems to be a final recognition by tech producers that customers just don’t respond well to the paper menu. They don’t mind buying, but they don’t want to feel like they’re being sold something.”

The key, Thorpe noted, is to stop using a system that doesn’t work – paper menus – and find one that customers will respond to. Like Woods, Thorpe doesn’t necessarily see tablets as being the answer – he believes they are a great place to start, to gather information, but for making presentations, there just isn’t the screen real estate necessary to make it natural and comfortable for both the F&I manager and the customer.

For Maxim, it doesn’t matter if it is tablet-sized technology, or large touchscreens, he sees the benefits as being the same. “The value in the equation is frankly in the presentation to the consumer. It’s real, and tangible to them. I like the touchscreen, it’s why I like the tablets; the customer can touch it, and it’s a more interactive presentation, engaging them. A concept like that with the large screen is just as valid as a tablet.”

“You can customize packages based on what the customer wants,” said Woods, noting that this type of technology allows F&I mangers to drag and drop products between columns, creating a custom package that will appeal to that customer, specifically. “You’re letting the customer touch the screen, poke around and learn more about the products. It forces them to take ownership of the decision; if they’re declining it, it’s because they’re taking ownership of it. It makes them think more about what they’re doing.”

“We learned a long time ago that what the customer didn’t like was the business manager on one side of the desk and them on the other, using the computer almost as a weapon,” said Thorpe. “We put them all on the same side of the desk, in more of a shared experience, and use the tech as the third party, so they’re all interacting with it together. The customer didn’t feel as threatened by the financial person, and saw them more as an advisor. We got more consistent information out on products to our clients, and the customer felt more empowered along the way as part of the discovery process. It didn’t come across as trying to push them into a product sale, and eliminated the possibility of the customer becoming overwhelmed.”

In the end, whatever the technology used or terminology used to classify it, the end game is to fundamentally change the way F&I managers and consumers interact. Technology is helping to bridge the barrier that formed between them, and create an atmosphere where consumers feel empowered to buy, which leads to F&I managers selling more. It’s taking the menu to the next level.

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Connecting Providers, Administrators and Dealers: Menu Systems – Part 2 of 4

In today’s dealerships, the menu systems in use have become the means for not only presenting the dealership’s financial and aftermarket options in a consistent and compliant manner, but have become the new portal for connecting to many of the third party systems available to the modern F&I manager.

F&I’s importance as a primary profit center underlines the need to be informed of the current integration state-of-the-art in the business office. The challenge is to integrate the ever increasing number of third party systems the F&I manager must access to reduce their workload. This will enable more time for productive selling, and is a role that the menu systems have assumed beyond their original design.

P&A contacted a veritable Who’s Who of menu system providers, including Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS), Ristken Software Services, MaximTrak, MenuVantage, and VisionMenu. Our intent was to profile the companies and learn which third party systems menu providers are connected to now, and which third party systems they plan to connect to in the future.

Perhaps even more important, does connecting to and integrating third party systems actually streamline the workflow? We will also discuss the menu providers’ availability and utilization of bi-directional integration.

Lastly, menu utilization becomes critical when the software connects to a growing list of third parties. What is being done about menu utilization and are menus being used consistent with their design? It is important to know what the menu providers and other parties are doing to keep menu utilization rates as high as possible.


If there was ever any question about the multitude of third party systems an F&I manager may have to access in the normal course of business, the following general list of systems our menu providers connect to should put that to rest:

  • DMS Providers like Reynolds & Reynolds, ADP, and DealerTrack DMS. Some menu providers connect with Tier 2 and Tier 3 DMS providers as well.
  • Lender portals like DealerTrack and RouteOne.
  • Aftermarket product providers: VSC, GAP, and other ancillary products.
  • Rating and enrollment providers like PEN, F&I Express, F&I Admin and StoneEagle for e-rating, e-contracting, and e-remittance.
  • Bi-weekly payment providers.
  • Sales and compliance training.
  • VIN decoding.
  • Electronic identity verification systems like OFAC and Red Flags.
  • Credit bureau aggregators like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • CRM systems.

Our menu respondents did not indicate individually a connection to all of the above third parties, so the following is a brief summary of specific connections.

IAS integrates with DMS providers Reynolds & Reynolds, ADP, and DealerTrack DMS with certified interfaces. The system also integrates with about twenty different VSC and ancillary product providers for e-rating and e-contracting. IAS connects to identity verification systems to verify customer identity and prevent fraud.

Ristken connects with Reynolds & Reynolds, ADP, DealerTrack, and RouteOne with certified integration. Ristken also integrates with other Tier 2 and Tier 3 DMS and DSP providers, in addition to the Provider Exchange Network (PEN), bi-weekly payment provider Equity Driver, OFAC, and Red Flags.

MaximTrak connects with the major DMS providers, credit aggregators TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, and adds a connection with RouteOne for credit application submission. The company recently added connections to PEN and F&I Admin for e-contracting and e-rating. Rounding out MaximTrak’s portfolio of connections are bi-weekly payment calculators, numerous product vendors, VIN rating, insurance calculations, e-contracting, OFAC, and Red Flag scores.

MenuVantage blends a comprehensive suite of integration to include point of sale providers, credit aggregation, lender submission, automated compliance screening, and DMS. The system allows for multi-directional deal flow as not all deals follow the same path.

VisionMenu integrates with most DMS providers, connects to over thirty product rating and enrollment providers, and offers both sales and compliance training plus a CRM connection for Powersports dealers. VisionMenu will connect to any bi-weekly payment provider that has an available web service.

Future Connections

Selecting a menu provider should include individual inquiries as to exactly which third parties they connect with or plan to connect with. Looking to the future, the strategy among menu system providers is to accommodate as many third party systems as possible so as not to limit the eligibility of a system to any dealership based on who they do business with.

The technology is evolving as this is written, and the universe of possible third parties that could conceivably connect through the menu is a moving target. The “menu as a portal” idea, aggregating many of the functions listed above on to one screen, offers a fascinating look at where we are headed with this technology.

All of our menu system providers are aggressively chasing this herd of cats and our entire industry will benefit from their efforts.

A brief look into the future is IAS’s plans to add functionality whereby video recordings are stored alongside tiered and final menus within their menu system for a true historical perspective. IAS’s newest tablet application will also integrate with their menu to provide interview results electronically to F&I managers before the customer enters the business office.

Ristken, cautious not to integrate for the sake of integration, carefully chooses their third party connections based on the value it provides to their clients. Ristken is always looking to integrate with third parties that provide a mutual benefit to the dealers they serve.

MaximTrak already integrates with over seventy-five companies today. The company envisions a future where as technology advances to allow for more functionality, the goal is to stay on the cutting edge and facilitate higher CSI scores and sales by aggregating all of the functions into one application.

MenuVantage believes providers with exclusive contracts with third party delivery systems, those that do not allow the dealer to choose which vendors they do business with, may be forced to accept a more open architecture. According to MenuVantage, the trend in the industry appears to be one where closed arrangements that limit the dealer’s choices will be replaced with an arrangement where the dealer retains control.

VisionMenu sees the menu as a hub between the DMS and other product providers, and plans to connect to anyone with a web service that helps eliminate dual data entry, saves time, and encourages the F&I manager to use a tool that has proven to make them more money.

Deal Flow and Integration: Pull and Push

From a practical standpoint, it has been established that the menu is fast and efficient compared to traditional methods. Custom menus can be generated and modified in seconds. The choke points are in populating the menu with deal data, rating contracts, re-populating DMS with finalized deal data, printing forms, and electronically remitting the sale of aftermarket products.

Streamlining deal flow begins with populating the menu with customer data, vehicle info, and deal structure. Menu systems integrate with DMS and/or lender portals to pull this information and populate the menu deal screen, eliminating duplicate data entry from the outset.

A connection with VIN decoders and product providers’ rating engines can then supply a list of eligible products. The F&I manager only has to select time and mileage bands based on the consumer’s driving habits to populate a custom menu. No fumbling with rate matrixes or forgetting surcharges are possible when only eligible products are presented to the F&I manager to select from.

Once the final deal structure and product selections are agreed upon, the next step is to update DMS and print forms. Here is where things get really hairy with integration. MaximTrak, Ristken, and MenuVantage offer bi-directional communication with DMS. “Pushing” finalized deal data back into DMS and updating a deal record, however, is not allowed by all DMS providers.

MaximTrak postulates that bi-directional functionality will become more integral to the overall process because aftermarket contracts will stem directly from the menu sale. Ristken has found that the majority of their dealers utilize DMS integration capabilities even though some F&I managers still choose a manual input process. Either way, Ristken’s menu retains full functionality. The majority of MenuVantage’s dealerships benefit from a bi-directional interface, customized with line-by-line detail.

IAS’s certified DMS integration is not bi-directional at this time, but the company has not seen this to be a complaint from actual users. Although the company believes that theoretically bi-directional integration makes sense, “in the trenches” it’s not a true concern.

VisionMenu pulls data from DMS. When the company first established DMS integration, it was believed integration needed to be bi-directional – pulling and pushing. They have found that a dealer has no problem manually updating a few products in DMS. According to VisionMenu, this is all a push accomplishes, since the F&I manager has to go to DMS to print forms anyway.

Most F&I managers are accustomed to manually updating DMS with finalized transaction data, even if offered the option of electronically updating the record in DMS. Why? Chalk it up to old habits dying hard when a finance manager is unlikely to wait more than a few seconds for the update process to complete.

Forms for sold products can be printed the old-fashioned way with impact printers and multi-part forms, or with e-contracting right from the menu. Which path is chosen here is determined primarily by the product provider and whether or not they connect with companies like PEN, F&I Express, F&I Admin or StoneEagle to facilitate e-solutions.

The expense of supplying multi-part forms and not having transaction data electronically will ultimately drive late-adopting product providers to join the e-contracting club. Every participant in the supply chain, from the provider to the consumer, will benefit from 100% adoption of e-rating, e-contracting, and e-remittance.

Menu systems are becoming the de-facto hub through which third parties connect in the F&I office.


If you agree with the above statement, then menu utilization becomes an important factor in order to gain the efficiencies, cost savings, and increased profits menu systems are known for, particularly when access to third party systems is built-in to the menu process.

Utilization for any software application is dependent upon factors like ease-of-use and accountability. For menu systems, industry usage statistics are unclear as to the percentage of deals with a signed final menu. Nor is it clear if menu systems are being used properly.

For IAS, generating a nightly report compiling menu usage data and emailing it to the general managers and agents is a first step. Next, IAS’s staff reviews menu usage statistics for every store on a weekly basis. IAS then personally contacts every F&I manager whose usage has dropped off. Ascertaining the reason for the drop off has resulted in an improvement nearly every time.

Ristken evaluates each enterprise and their needs to develop a strategic utilization plan. As dealerships become more comfortable with technology, combining effective training, collaborative sales tools, and valid results has improved utilization rates.

MaximTrak’s research has shown that when a menu is used consistently, PVR will increase an average of $200 per vehicle and VSC penetration will rise an average of 14%. MaximTrak believes the best way to enforce menu adoption is through management buy-in. Once management sees the potential for increased profits, directives and pay incentives will help finance mangers follow suit.

MenuVantage has incorporated several processes to ensure menu utilization and continuously works with dealers and agents to maximize the experience.

VisionMenu focuses on ease-of-use, believing the F&I manager will take advantage of the profit opportunity it gives them. The agent is often paying for the software, so menu usage is mandated because the system adds income and is part of the agent’s value proposition.

It is interesting to note the different approaches the various menu providers take when it comes to utilization and accountability. One thing is certain, menu utilization will not magically happen on its own. In most cases, it will take hands-on involvement and constant monitoring to get the desired results.

It is clear that many of the innovations in the finance office are built around the powerful application the menu has become. Our industry is fortunate to have some very bright people willing to push the integration envelope, transforming a sales tool into a commerce hub.

If you missed Part 1 of P&A’s connectivity series, click here for “Connecting Providers, Administrators and Dealers: Administration Systems”

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Protective Selects Ristken as F&I Menu Provider for Auto Dealerships

DALLAS – The Asset Protection Division of Protective Life has chosen Ristken Software Services and its automotive menu software to support the dealership F&I departments Protective serves. Protective provides underwriting, administering and marketing products including extended service contracts, GAP coverage and credit insurance to automobile dealers. Ristken provides menu solutions for the retail automotive marketplace.

Protective’s customers will use the Protective ProMenu application. ProMenu and Pro Performance is a web-based menu selling solution provided by Ristken and designed to effectively present all F&I products to customers at every transaction while ensuring dealer compliance in all 50 states and Canada. ProMenu allows finance managers to create accurate, high-quality product presentations for customers, as well as handle the disclosure and compliance needs of their sales processes. In addition, it includes compliance training and compliance monitoring.

“We saw the Ristken menu product as a technology solution that fit in nicely to our existing dealer support tools,” said Rick Kurtz, vice president of dealer sales at Protective. “We are anxious to leverage the success this product has already displayed with our agents and dealers.”

Protective dealers will use Ristken’s products to manage disclosures and calculations needed for regulatory, marketing and business scenarios. ProMenu benefits dealers and agents by streamlining sales processes and providing a convenient method to comply with customer disclosure regulations, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction.

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