The number of recalls by automakers has risen steadily in the U.S. for the past two decades. For the first three quarters of 2015, there was roughly 141 recalls, covering about 34 million vehicles, which means it is pacing a bit below 2014’s numbers, the NHTSA says. 2014 marked a record year for vehicle recalls in the U.S. More than 74 million vehicles in 902 separate cases, as documented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That number represents more than a quarter of all vehicles registered in the U.S. and the biggest total since 1999, when 55.5 million vehicles were recalled in 440 cases. Recalls affected more than 60 million cars throughout the country in 2014, known in our industry as “The Year of Recalls.” Based on their mounting numbers, it appears that recalls are now a part of the automotive industry. The authors, Neil Steinkamp and Jake Reed, said the findings suggest there will be a new era in recalls.

Looming over this issue, from a business context, are how many recall repairs never get completed and the opportunity these unfixed recall vehicles represent for a Long-Term Service Relationship. I’m talking about more Customers, Larger Ticket Orders and Increased Customer Loyalty.

Good-Car-MechanicYou know you can’t depend on new vehicle buyers to return to your store for service and you know that 80% don’t return after just two years. If you really think about it, every car that starts out on the road has 100% retention potential. With over 100,000 independent repair facilities across the country for your customer to choose from, you have to do more to stand out. Take a few minutes and count the number of places in your area where customers can get their vehicles repaired – ask yourself what sets you apart from the competition and what would make them want to come to your store for service? You position your service department as “the dealership who cares beyond the sale”, get them in with the Recall, then look to turn them into Trusted, Lifetime Customers.

“You don’t target Recall Repair service customers so you can work on their cars once. You target them to become Repeat Customers.”

Often, owners have no idea there’s an outstanding recall. If they are notified, they may simply not know where to start to get their car fixed. Here is where your dealership service department can become a resource and advocate for service customers. A staggering number of vehicles – more than 46 million nationwide – have unfixed safety recalls. That’s one out of every five vehicles on the road right now!

Alerting Your Customers

Piston Data Recall Card_FrMany of the recent TV affiliate and print media stories have highlighted how few owners realize their vehicle has an unfixed recall issue. Some of them have missed or accidentally discarded the manufacturer’s recall notification. Others may not have received a notification at all, if they only recently purchased the car used or changed addresses. You must make sure your dealership name, location, phone number, hours and e-mail addresses are presented as the dealership who cares or any automotive marketing campaign will purely drive prospect sales to another online advertised dealership.

Do you know the number of open recalls within your franchise line(s), within a viable selling radius of your dealership? Are there, five hundred, thousand, two thousand, five thousand? It doesn’t really matter you just need the number; the reason this number is important, is because it provides you with an approximation as to the maximum service repair orders and unit sales that can achieved with your dealership running a recall marketing campaign.

Using recall marketing to alert your customers about a recall on their car is an effective way to bring them in, especially if they overlooked the manufacturer’s recall announcement. By getting in front of your customers with recall information, you remind them that your dealership and service department are there for the entirety of their ownership process – not just for the sale. It’s a good practice for dealership service departments to include in this outreach a reminder that only franchised dealers are authorized to fix recalls, a fact that is lost among some car owners.

Increasing Service Repair Orders

Of course, when customers come in for a recall repair, they’re usually fixated on just that one issue. Their goal is to get the problem fixed at no cost to them in as little time as possible. Your goal, however, should be to leverage these visits to boost your customer service and ultimately your ticket orders. While your techs are handling the recall problem, what additional work might the customer’s vehicle need to help maintain its safety and performance?

car-dealership-serviceWith so many vehicles with unfixed recalls, chances are a significant number of them also require further maintenance – oil changes, brakes, fluids, etc. All these procedures happen to help you tap into an even larger pool of revenue for your service department. Experts believe that more than $60 billion of recommended maintenance goes undone every year. With customer service initiatives and greater encouragement from your shop, you can make your customers aware of services they have missed and capitalize on those opportunities.

Now, making service recommendations and suggesting additional work to a customer who came in expecting not to pay anything can be a tough sell. That’s why positioning your team as educators and customer advocates from the moment a recall vehicle comes in is so important. Having an ally in the service department gives your customer peace of mind and builds trust.

Customer-receptionWhen customers arrive at your shop for recall repairs, talk them through all the steps including what is being replaced and why the repair is important. Offer a timeline that is reasonable for both the customer and your service team. Answer customers’ questions.

If your customer sees your service department as a partner in the recall process, it can help ease the transition to when your advisors make additional service recommendations.


Recalls Open Door to More Business

Recalls can be your service department’s cash cow, opening the door to larger ticket orders and, just as important, more loyal customers. There’s certainly no shortage of opportunity these days. Be a resource to customers, so they’ll have even more trust in your shop and won’t think twice about coming back for recall repairs and other services time and again.

If your shop does not have the ability to perform a particular recall repair, it is still smart business to inform your customers about the recall and its effects, and explain why it is crucial to have the problem fixed. Your willingness to tell customers about an outstanding recall and point them in the direction of an OEM-authorized shop for repairs can earn you their loyalty for non-recall-related maintenance needs later.

Doing so only reinforces in your customer’s mind that your dealership cares about his or her safety and how well the vehicle is performing. Put your customers’ minds at ease by letting them know about recalls, and assure them your shop is ready.