A recent article in Auto Remarketing reports how Penske Automotive Group is using recalls to increase their service business through recall work, but also as an opportunity to sell more vehicles. “I think recall business is good,” Penske Chairman Roger Penske, stated. “We welcome it. I think that’s why we’ve committed to the large fixed operations that we have in order to be able to handle it as it comes in. And I think it also gives us the chance — think about this one — it gives us the chance many times to see vehicles which we haven’t seen. So, it gives us the chance to connect with a customer with an older vehicle and in many cases we’re converting those into used-car or new-car sales.”
Penske makes a great point. However, the very first thing to get an effective handle on is how to connect with these recall customers in the first place. How do you get through to them and inform them of the recall so that you can connect and get their service business? With the incredible amount of recalls over recent months/years, it has become somewhat of a challenge to get the consumer’s attention. Many dealers send out bulk mail notices to customers in their DMS. Oftentimes, these notices are assumed to be solicitations and never read. How many times have you trashed a letter simply because it had a bulk mail symbol?
What has been found effective in reaching these recall customers and driving them into the service department is a multi-pronged marketing approach. Consider using telephone, email and direct mail.
For your direct mail don’t just send a bulk mail piece. Send recall communications via first class mail. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but it’s also more likely to be read. Make sure that envelope it’s mailed in is designed to brand the dealership and the OEM, and that it is very clear that it’s about a recall. In addition, be sure that the envelope is NHTSA and Department of Transportation compliant. Lastly, consider that the more eye-catching the envelope is, and the greater sense of urgency it portrays, the more likely it will be opened and acted upon.
Once the letter has been sent follow up with an email communication. Reinforce the message from the mail piece. Ensure that the actual content of the e-mail leans more towards the educational side. Don’t simply state there is an open recall and ask them to make an appointment. Educate them about the recall and how it could affect the safety of their vehicle. Be specific and stress the importance of completing the work.
As far as the telephone is concerned, make sure your staff are trained in how best to handle these customers. Many can be upset or worried about the safety of their vehicle. Remember that to the customer, your dealership is an extension of the OEM. Be empathetic, apologize to the customer for any inconvenience the recall may have caused them. Be sure to set them at ease by providing all the information they need. And do please schedule them efficiently. Make sure their parts arrive in a timely manner and that that their work is completed as promised. Or, if there is a shortage of parts due to a high volume recall, be sure to communicate appropriately so the customer understands the situation.
And let’s not forget the fact that recalls can provide opportunities in the sales department as well as your service department. Effective recall notifications can act as an excellent form of marketing to boost your bottom line in both sales and service. The trick is to make sure that the customer feels like you’re helping them, not trying to sell them anything. Get that across and you’ll generate more opportunities than you can handle.