Turning recall pain into an experience that can boost your dealership’s results

A vehicle recall doesn’t have to pain your customers – or your dealership.

Viewed another way, you can turn what appears to be a negative into a positive experience for your customers while making an impression that will last long after recall repairs are completed.

“With the right approach, dealerships can make the most out of recalls,” wrote David Foutz of Xtime for WardsAuto. “While some people may view recalls as a hassle, dealerships using the right approach can turn these events into another customer touchpoint that leads to more service and sales revenue.”



Foutz suggested that recalls often are met with “a heightened sense of urgency by customers since they see them as public issues that raise questions about vehicle safety.”

“Dealerships can turn these potentially tense events into a great experience, building trust and long-term connections,” according to the WardsAuto report.

A report by Recall Masters earlier this year revealed that nearly 33 million vehicles were subject to mandatory recalls by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2018. Another 14.5 million vehicles were affected by “voluntary” manufacturer recalls.

With recall completion rates estimated at 70-75 percent by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), that means there are about 12-14 million vehicles on the road with open recalls from last year alone. Based on the CFA’s percentage estimates, about 70 million vehicles need recall repairs out of 276 million total on the road in the United States resulting from 280 million vehicles recalled the last 10 years.

That represents a lot of revenue potential for dealerships that take recall repairs seriously as a revenue stream that also includes regular warranty work, customer-paid repairs and used-car reconditioning.

Here are Foutz’s thoughts on how dealerships can make the most out of recall opportunities:

Ensure employees make good impressions

“Dealerships need to arm their staff to deal with customer inquiries even when they do not yet have all the specific recall details. Once they have the information, they need to quickly prepare their technical and customer service staff with the proper processes.”

“To succeed, dealers must meet customer expectations on a recall service visit as they do for every other service appointment. That means easy scheduling, quick check-in, complete vehicle inspections and professional delivery … Think about each repair as an audition for future business.”

Technology plays an integral role

“The insights delivered by a well-designed service information tool can help in each customer interaction, even during the craziness of a large recall. Instead of waiting for a customer’s call, dealerships can proactively communicate by utilizing reports on VINs in their area to identify affected vehicles. Once identified, dealerships can use technology that automatically sends messages.”

“These messages should include a link to the dealership’s online service scheduling tool, removing bottlenecks created by a flood of calls.”

Creative solutions are the key to success

“Creative solutions can make recall service visits as enjoyable as possible. For example, one dealership implemented ‘recall Saturdays and Sundays,’ where it dedicated fixed-operations work to recalls.”

“Dealership employees plan ahead for recall work by arranging loaner vehicles ahead of time. Technicians are scheduled in advance … so recall work doesn’t disrupt their typical earnings during the week. The dealership orders pizzas, plays music and turns the service visit into a fun experience.”

Dealers should view recalls as a way to retain customers and acquire new customers, according to a recent Cox Automotive survey of 3,550 consumers who had at least one service visit in the previous 12 months. With fixed operations representing about 50 percent of dealerships’ gross profit on average, it clearly is “critical to retaining customers for future vehicle sales,” Cox said.

Cox noted that about three-quarters of customers who came in for service within the past 12 months are “likely to return to the dealer of purchase for their next vehicle.”

Paying attention to recall repair business results in a win-win if your dealership handles it right.

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