Recalls have become a daily occurrence for dealerships and a frequent source of frustration for car owners. Last year alone, upwards of 30 million vehicles in the U.S. were affected, based on NHTSA figures. The volume has become so consistent that some fixed operations directors have started thinking about recall work as a fourth segment of their business, along with (regular) warranty, customer paid, and reconditioning.
Recalls are typically viewed as negative events, but with the right approach, you can turn a recall into a positive customer experience. Recalls become an opportunity to reconnect with customers, including those “lost souls” who haven’t visited the dealership since buying their car. Here are four ways to make that happen:
1. Leverage Every Service Visit.
Imagine if your dentist didn’t inspect every tooth as a part of your routine checkup and dental problems were always a surprise. While no one likes going to the dentist, we all appreciate seeing the X-rays and having a dentist point out what’s going on in our mouths — whether good or bad news.
Dealers should think in the same way. Every service appointment should include a vehicle inspection with pictures, videos, and simple descriptions so consumers can understand the total health of their vehicle.
Arming technical and customer service staff with the correct information to care for customers is already a challenge. Adding recall stress only exacerbates the demanding and frenetic world of a service department. Improve every customer experience, from scheduling through detailed inspections, to ensure the same exceptional service will be delivered during recalls.
2. Get Technical.
Why wait for customers to get their factory recall notice and contact the dealership? Solutions designed to help dealers proactively monitor recall reports are proliferating. The best produce outbound and follow-up communications via an opted-in customer’s preferred contact method, such as emails or texts, and allow them to schedule appointments online.
Some OEMs have enabled integrations between online scheduling tools and their parts supply systems that confirm parts availability in real time, while a customer or dealership employee looks to schedule a recall. This automatically places a parts order once the repair is scheduled.
Technology-supported experiences can play an important role in creating a more efficient, convenient repair process that shows you interact in a transparent, convenient way and that you value your customers time and safety.
3. Be Creative.
Dealers need to think creatively about how to make service visits as enjoyable as possible, especially during large demand spikes for recall work.
For example, one dealership in Texas created “Recall Saturdays” and “Recall Sundays” where they dedicated fixed operations work to recalls. Managers are able to work ahead to secure loaner vehicles as needed. The parts department accurately stocks up to handle the demand and technicians plan ahead so it doesn’t detract from their regular work mix.
Best of all, the dealer orders pizzas and plays music, creating a fun atmosphere for the customer and dealership staff both. That’s the kind of recall experience that makes a positive, lasting impression.
4. Understand the Bigger Picture.
Ultimately, recall work alone won’t drive significant revenue or profits, but you can maximize the opportunity by understanding how recalls fit into the bigger picture of an ongoing customer relationship. Recalls are a chance to instill trust and transparency in your dealership and its brands. It’s a chance to show customers a service appointment can be a fast — even fun — experience.
Most importantly, a recall is another critical touchpoint with the customer. Almost three-quarters of customers who visited the dealership in the past 12 months for service are likely to return to purchase their next vehicle, according to Cox Automotive’s 2018 Service Industry Study. Keeping that finding in mind, a well-prepared staff with the right technology can turn low-margin recall work today into high-margin service and sales visits tomorrow.
David Foutz is vice president of sales for Xtime (div. Cox Automotive) and a 20-year veteran of the dealer software segment.