How to Turn Recalls Into Positive Customer Experiences


Recalls are never good news for customers. At best, it means the added inconvenience of scheduling an appointment, waiting for the repair, and/or leaving their vehicle with the dealership. At worst, unaddressed recalls can cause accidents, or induce fear of potential issues.

In 2018, around 30 million vehicles in the U.S. were affected by recalls, according to NHTSA figures. Recalls are often viewed as negative events for customers and dealers alike. However, with the right approach, recalls can become a positive experience for both parties.

Here are some strategies to consider when dealing with recalls in your service drive.

Think Ahead

While recalls can happen quickly, there are tools available to help you monitor them. Taking the time to stay ahead of recalls can help your dealership be better prepared, especially if the recall is critical and heavy participation is expected early on.

When you are aware of the recall early, you can plan ahead to make sure parts are available and that you have enough staff to handle the repairs in a timely manner.

Maximize the Opportunity

Customers have a lot of choices when it comes to servicing their vehicle. The upsurge in independent service shops and the already fierce competition between dealers mean that you don’t get too many chances to build a solid relationship with customers. 

Every time you get a customer to show up in your service drive should be celebrated. Even under unfavorable circumstances such as a breakdown or a service recall, each opportunity to service a customer offers the potential to dazzle and impress.

Service recalls (along with warranty work), are unique opportunities to reconnect with old customers and impress new ones, especially those who might otherwise take their vehicles to an independent shop. If you can turn a recall into a pleasant experience, they might just come back again and again to recreate that experience.

Be Proactive

Just because the factory is obligated to send out factory recall notices, it doesn’t mean that your dealership shouldn’t send out notices as well.  Proactively sending out notices, accompanied by a scheduling invitation, shows that your dealership cares and is there to make the process easy.

Make scheduling an appointment easy by allowing the customer to automatically schedule a time for the repairs. It might even be a good idea to block out specific times when your service department can devote additional resources to specifically handling recalls. Such an approach can ensure that customers get handled efficiently and with the best experience possible.

Upsell Services

In general, service shops have a bad reputation for trying to sell service that is perceived as unnecessary. Customers hate being told everything that is wrong with their car and how much money it will cost to fix. Ironically, the opposite can actually be true as well. Customers really do appreciate knowing about potential issues before they become a big problem.

The difference is all in the approach.  Selling service effectively comes down to simple communication. An honest assessment of a vehicle’s issues, accompanied by an unbiased inspection report can lead to more service sales. This concept goes even further if the customer feels they are in the driver’s seat. Don’t be pushy. Present the facts, and let the customer make the call.

To start off on the right foot with recall customers, you might consider an incentive for coming in, like a free car wash or oil change. A simple gesture can help alleviate the frustration of dealing with a recall, and show that you want to offer them more than a laundry list of things they should fix on their vehicle.