Finance and Leasing Association statistics revealed that dealers were not discussing retail finance options with customers, which persuaded Close to launch its ‘Ask for Finance’ sales campaign.
Criticism by dealers of finance companies was a key element of Sewells’ Used Car Finance House Survey 2006 (‘Finance houses frustrate dealers’, AM Finance analysis, January 12).
Infrequent visits from field staff, and problems encountered in contact with centralized teams, were among the difficulties mentioned in the survey.
James Broadhead, deputy managing director, Close Finance, says: “Our aim for 15 years has been to act as business partner to our dealers, not just a finance provider. We will always believe that providing a personal service is the best approach.”
Broadhead says the company’s wide range of POS marketing material is regularly improved. “For our Ask For Finance campaign, we rebranded our marketing material, and the take-up and feedback from dealers around the country has been exceptional,” he explains.
Each quarter, Close faxes its Moneyfacts comparison chart to dealers. This explains finance options available to customers and emphasizes that POS finance is a viable and good option. Referring to Sewells’ findings, Broadhead says: “Many of our competitors have centralized operations to save money, closing their local branches.
“This is why many dealers are starting to feel that the level of service they receive has declined. “Sewells found sales representatives visit less often, and that the effectiveness and friendliness of head office staff is poor compared with the local branch they used to operate with.”
Close Finance is convinced that good training for account managers and local underwriting are keys to building relationships with dealers.
Account managers carry cheque books, so payouts are immediate (delays in receiving commission were mentioned by a number of dealers in the survey).
“We have an underwriting team within each branch,” says Broadhead. “The norm within the industry is to use a credit scoring system and underwrite proposals electronically.
“This may be faster in the short-term but it’s not flexible and results in many proposals being rejected that perhaps shouldn’t have been.”