The news media has been beating the drums on vehicle recalls.

Consumers want reassurance someone is looking out for them. That’s where the dealer comes in.

Recalls can be a plus for many stores, or at least a push. Don’t get me wrong, recalls are a lemon. But let’s make lemonade. 

Many customers returning to a dealership for recall work have been on the inactive list for a while. Recalls could be a great opportunity to reintroduce them back to the store, particularly its service department. 

Let’s examine a few activities for dealerships to consider.

Plan your approach. Walk through the entire process from the notification to completion. In an ideal world, how would you like it done? Define victory. Anticipate customer questions and teach staff proper replies to use.  

Meet with the fixed-operations crew. Let everyone know recalls are not a negative. They should not be treated as an interruption, but as a business opportunity and a chance to make a positive impression. Share with service advisers and technicians your definition of victory regarding the recall customer.

The win here is not selling parts and service, but positioning your dealership for additional consideration. Don’t pressure the staff to turn the recall customers into instant revenue. That may backfire and reconfirm their decision to defect from your store.

Solicit staff ideas about how to “wow” the recall customer. Let them develop the process of handling this asset.

Define each touch point and the process for it. At the very least, wash cars and send customers a thank-you note for coming in. Giveaways always are a hit.

Tell customers at the write-up time you will be doing a multipoint inspection on their vehicles. Set the expectation that if you find something, you will let them know. Don’t just do it, and then call the customer with an estimate. Set the sale up, and ask for consideration.

A challenge for many stores is scheduling the work. Don’t abandon the customers you have now. Business needs to continue. You need more production capacity. How about offering evening hours for recall customers? Many of your technicians would love to make a few extra bucks. Or maybe extend Saturday hours.

A recall represents an effective customer-retention tool. Make the most of it. Focus efforts on renewing relationships with customers you haven’t seen in a while.

Fixed-operations consultant Lee Harkins heads M5 Management Services based in Pelham, AL. He can be reached at 205-358-8717 at