The eighth annual Extended Warranty & Service Contract Innovations Conference opens September 13 at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. Several hundred professionals from the extended warranty and service contract industry are headed to Nashville to talk about how changes in technology and regulations will impact their businesses in the years ahead.
On Thursday morning, Sean Stapleton, the President and CEO of AMT Warranty, will join with Kenneth J. Mac, the Director of Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac Protection at General Motors Co., to deliver a presentation on “Successful Partnerships in the OEM F&I Space.”
GM spun off its vehicle service contract, insurance, and finance business years ago into what is now known as Ally Financial Inc., but which used to be known as the General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC). Then, of course, the great recession hit, and both GM and GMAC went through bankruptcy reorganizations. Afterwards, GM decided to re-enter the VSC business under its own name, and Mac’s Customer Care & Aftersales unit decided to do it in partnership with an outside insurance underwriter.
Stapleton said AMT won the bidding after an extensive vetting process. “The relationship with GM has been truly phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve been in business for many years now.” He said they started working together in 2014, after AMT Warranty won the bid in late 2013.
“The program has grown tremendously since then,” he said. “And it continues to grow. So I’m really proud of what AMT Warranty and GM have put together.” Their joint presentation in Nashville will explain how the relationship works, how they strive for continual improvement and innovation together, and what advice they can offer to others looking to create similar partnerships for their service contract programs.
“It’s a unique partnership in so many ways,” Stapleton said. “This isn’t a vendor relationship with them. We’re not order-takers. It’s very collaborative. We meet every Monday. We have our quarterly calls. We have update calls. We’re living and breathing and looking at the same things.”
Stapleton said he and Mac will outline some of the best practices that seem to work for them in their partnership, while acknowledging that things may be different for other partnerships. First, he said, the partners employ what he called “fear-free communications” between the two teams.
“We empower our teams to build these relationships amongst themselves,” he said. “They fight for each other. It’s almost like one organization. It doesn’t feel like finger-pointing. It feels like we win or lose together.”
The teams also are encouraged to ask a lot of questions, particularly around reasons why they’re doing something a particular way. “Some of those things are hard to discuss, whether it’s personal or professional, but we have that openness. And it’s been really beneficial.”
Stapleton said the partners started out in 2014 with just a handful of auto dealers selling their vehicle service contracts (most were still loyal to GMAC/Ally). Ally still had rights to the GM name. So the partners decided to sell Buick, Cadillac, and Chevrolet-branded VSCs, and gradually some of those dealers decided to come aboard.
“It was a huge challenge,” Stapleton said. “But it was also a pretty exciting time — to know that we were doing things differently, to do things that were intended to drive retention and loyalty. That’s one of the biggest differentiators I think that the program has.”
They also offered disappearing deductibles, and introduced a “white glove” level of service within the dealerships to boost loyalty and turn what could be a real negative (getting a defect repaired) into a real positive (cementing the relationship with a phenomenal experience).
“Issues create long-term relationships with these customers,” he said. “Their alternator may have blown. And that stinks. But they had a great experience. They were put into a loaner car. And there’s a disappearing deductible, so there’s no money out of pocket. It makes it a whole lot easier, and it builds that level of trust. Challenges can actually result in longer-term relationships with customers.”
GM could have done it alone, essentially remanufacturing GMAC all over again. But instead it decided to work with AMT. Stapleton said this allows the partners to share data about both the products and the risks, with each bringing their expertise to the table.
“We support other large OEM programs,” he said. “So we know what’s been successful, and we know what’s been a failure.” And it helps the partners to properly price the service contracts sold for not only for new GM vehicles, but also the used vehicles that dealers have on their lots. “We have a depth and breadth of understanding of this space that’s hard to compete with, because this is our core.”