Doesn’t it seem like there’s a vehicle safety recall almost every day?
Well, actually, there is.
While recall totals vary from year to year, the numbers have climbed steadily in each of the past several decades.
Technology is making cars more complex and therefore more prone to problems. But it’s also making it easier for automakers to detect and correct those problems through recalls before they become crises. Even so, recalls are an unwelcome reality, with costs that likely total in the tens of billions of dollars each year, not to mention the hit to automakers’ images. They gum up the machinery of the auto industry, tying up the resources of OEMS, dealers, and suppliers.
However, what is not always reported is the bright side to all of this for dealers. If handled correctly, with the right processes in place, recalls provide opportunities for dealerships to bring customers into the service department, build customer loyalty and encourage maintenance business. In fact, they provide your dealership with a natural competitive advantage. Unlike independent repair shops, your dealership is authorized to perform these repairs, which won’t cost the customer a dime. Safety recalls also present a huge source of potential service revenue from manufacturers.
So, how can your dealership claim its share? Implement some basic processes across the dealership to ensure that this source of revenue is handled to your best advantage. Then ensure ongoing and consistent training across all areas of the dealership in the correct handling of these recall customers. I promise you, any time and effort spent on this is well worth it.
Correctly Servicing the Recall Customer:
Owners of recalled vehicles tend to be different than your typical service customers. The fact they’ve been tracked down and notified of a recall often comes as a surprise and inconvenience, so they react with frustration or even anger.
When an owner arrives at your store or phones, be prepared with a response. Ideally, your dealership should truly “own” the recall problem and apologize to the customer. One greeting we recommend is: “Thank you so much for contacting us. On behalf of [OEM] and [dealership name], we apologize for any inconvenience caused by this recall. Your safety is our top priority, and we want to make it right by repairing your vehicle at no cost to you.” This type of customer handling should be trained into anyone who interfaces with the customer, from the receptionist, to any service BDC, to your service advisors.
From there, your staffer should transition into a counseling process and explain the recall description, remedy available, length of time to make the repair, and parts availability. Additionally, the customer should be informed that your dealership has certified technicians available to make these repairs.
You can also explain your dealership’s service advantages (free car wash, Wi-Fi, coffee, etc.). This type of planned response will often calm down a frustrated customer and quite possibly turn him or her into a loyal service customer.
Converting Service Customers to Sales Customers:
When the safety risk posed by a recall is high, and parts are not readily available, then the vehicle owner becomes a prime sales candidate. If your service department doesn’t have the parts in stock to do a recall repair, don’t just write off the customer as a lost opportunity. Turn him or her over to the sales team, which needs to have devised a strategy. A special incentive should be provided or an offer made, to make up for your service department’s inability to perform the recall repair in a timely manner. Again, the goal is to position yours as the dealership that cares. Get the correct process in place and train your team on them.
“Train” Your Customers:
With the number of recalls and all the news out there about it, some customers have become a little deadened to it and tend to turn a blind eye, or deaf ear. A good communication strategy from your dealership can help “train” these customers into paying attention.
Recalls provide a unique opportunity to reach and engage with new customers, because your dealership is not trying to sell anything yet. Rather, it is offering to help with a problem. Many times, these customers don’t even know there is a recallable problem with their vehicle, or they realize but have shoved the issue to the bottom of their priority list.
To get the attention of message-weary and oblivious consumers, your first-class mailing should be just that: First Class — It must not look like junk mail, or a black and white notice from the government. It should include the OEM’s logo if possible and your dealership’s logo.
Your message must be brief and educational. Besides the recall information, this mailing should include your dealership’s street address and website address, toll free number, and your hours of operation. Your emails should follow suit. Ten days after sending the first-class mailing, and/or email equivalent, have your BDC follow up with a well-scripted phone call – factual, not alarmist. Be sure all communications comply with federal and state laws and regulations, including the CAN SPAM Act and National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry rules.
Do take advantage of the recall campaign to book additional services — without any incremental cost of advertising! Simply create a service incentive offer to accompany the recall appointment booking. The offer could include recommended factory service interval maintenance based on mileage, oil changes, etc.
The growing number of recalls presents an incredible opportunity for your dealership to claim its share of millions of dollars in recall revenue. Get ready for this upcoming influx of service work – reach out to, engage, upsell, and satisfy recalled vehicle owners to keep them coming back.
Author: Chris Miller
Chris Miller is President of Recall Masters, a leading provider of automotive recall news, data, training, and communications. Privately held and based in the San Francisco Bay area, the company is dedicated to helping automakers and their dealers expedite the repair of recalled vehicles and make the roadways safer for everyone. Christopher has more than 17 years of experience building software to automate marketing communications. He has worked with marquee brands including HSBC/Household Automotive, Washington Mutual, Residential Pacific Mortgage, ServiceMagic, Monumental Life Insurance, Mercedes Benz USA, BMW/Mini North America, Volvo North America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Moxy Solutions, and Costco Automotive Group.