Remember the good old days, when manufacturers notified dealers in advance that a safety recall was in the works? Dealership service departments had plenty of time to order the necessary parts, plan their marketing outreach (typically direct mail) and maybe even hire an extra technician to help handle the increased workload.
These days, liability fears require manufacturers to announce safety recalls as soon as they’re identified. Dealers often discover the recall the same way that customers do: on the news. They don’t have the parts to do the necessary repairs even as they’re fielding dozens of calls and inquiries from customers.
Yet, safety recalls present dealership service departments with a huge opportunity. Benefits of doing recall work include:
- Manufacturer-reimbursed parts and labor
- Increase in labor hours
- Opportunity to upsell customers
- Increase in customer pay ROs
- Establish instant credibility and trust with the customer
- Opportunity to win the continued loyalty and business from dozens of new customers
The dealerships that reach recall customers first stand to win the most. According to a recent article on MotorTrend.com, approximately one in six vehicles has an unrepaired safety recall. That’s an astonishing 63 million vehicles just waiting to be serviced!
Of course, finding these customers can be a bit tricky. It takes some detective work and probably a dedicated resource to cross reference VINs posted on websites like the NHTSA’s safercar.gov or on motorsafety.org, with records in your dealership’s DMS and/or CRM.
It also helps to have a process and technology in place in the service lane to check if your service customers coming in for regular maintenance or repairs own vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls.
Once you find these customers, however, it’s a no-brainer to launch an aggressive campaign to win their recall business.
I know that some dealers believe it’s up to the manufacturer to inform customers, so why bother? The problem is that your manufacturer doesn’t really care which dealership the customer goes to for service. They just care that it gets done.
It’s up to you to position your dealership as the best option for customers to get ‘er done. So the next time you hear about a recall, don’t be upset that you’ve been blindsided again. Instead, seize the day!
Here are some tips for creating a strategy that will help your service department be the first to feast from the recall dinner table:
1) Be prepared for a spike in inbound calls
Typically the first thing a dealership has to deal with when a new recall is announced is a sudden increase in inbound calls. The average dealer fields at least 30 to 40 additional calls per day.
When a recall is announced, find out as much as you can about the issue and create a script for the receptionist, BDC staff, service staff and/or anyone else answering the calls. The goal is to be consistent and caring in your answers to customer questions. Your other goal is to have your staff start scheduling appointments–even if you don’t have the parts yet. See the next tip.
2) Don’t wait until you have the parts
Be the first to notify customers there’s a problem with your vehicle, and they’ll remember you for it. Let your customers know that you are reaching out because you care, that you’re doing everything possible to get the necessary parts in stock, and give them an estimate of what date that will be. Encourage them to schedule an appointment in advance.
3) Create a multi-channel campaign
These days direct mail alone won’t do the job. Man–and woman–the phones! The nice thing about recalls is that because they are a safety concern, dealerships are not prohibited from calling customers on a do-not-call list, as in regular marketing campaigns. In fact, the onus is on the dealership to get hold of the customer. Take advantage of this loophole and be aggressive on the phones. If you don’t have the internal resources to conduct outgoing phone campaigns, consider outsourcing.
You’ll also want to create targeted email campaigns to segments of your database. Identify all of your customers with the same make/model recall and craft very specific messages that educate them about the issue. Additionally, you can create an ongoing messaging campaign as part of your regular customer communications. In every email newsletter or marketing message, include a short message about the dangers of unrepaired safety recalls. Direct your customers to call your service department to see if their vehicle has a safety issue.
Texting/SMS campaigns to your customers who have opted in are also an inexpensive and effective way to send notifications.
4) Own the problem
Customers may be angry or even scared when they discover their new vehicle has a safety issue. Even though it’s not your fault, don’t deflect. Sympathize with the customer, agree it’s a terrible thing and let them know you really want to fix it.
Education is also an important component here. If the safety issue is not severe you’ll want to ease their concerns. The dealership that does the best job at notifying, caring about and educating the consumer is the one who will win their trust.
5) Train employees to ask and check
Most consumers don’t get their vehicles repaired when there is a safety issue because they don’t know about the problem. As a dealership you can choose to take a very proactive stance on this. Train employees to ask all customers and prospective customers if they’ve checked their VINs for safety recalls.
Position your dealership as recall experts and as the dealership that cares. Encourage service people to use mobile tablets to check VINs for recall issues. As a bonus in the service lane, previously declined services can easily be identified at the same time as recall work. This provides the opportunity to segue into an upsell.
Don’t limit this proactive activity to your service employees. Even salespeople, if they have mobile tablets and are trained to do so, can ask prospective customers if they have checked their VINs against a safety recall database. Who knows, perhaps discovering their current vehicle has a safety recall issue will provide an extra bit of incentive to trade their vehicle in.
The more recalls your dealership identifies, the more service revenue you will generate. Get creative. Hold a monthly contest between your service advisors on who can bring in the most recall work. Give the Winner-Winner a gift certificate for a nice dinner!
The sheer volume of vehicles on the road without recall repairs, as well as the continued stream of recall notifications from manufacturers, represents millions–possibly billions–of dollars of unclaimed service revenue. Be proactive and formulate a game plan to get your dealership’s share!
Author: Bill Wittenmyer
Bill Wittenmeyer has over more than 20 years of experience in the automotive space and currently manages multiple divisions within his organization including sales, marketing, OEM relationships and large-client accounts. He speaks at several prominent automotive forums each year. Before joining ELEAD1ONE, he spent several years in dealership operations management.