Recalls – A Blessing or a Curse?

Rick NewsletterIt seems that lately I have been hearing from a lot of service managers that they are flooded with recalls and are just simply unable to conduct business in the professional manner that they would like to. Many have told me that they are simply too busy or that they have too much traffic. As I visit stores, I am seeing this first hand. I have seen customers waiting for extended periods of time to get written up, customers calling with a break down being told that it will be a week before we can get to their car but “…you’re welcome to have it towed here anyway.”; and phone operators with countless phone messages for advisors from customers waiting for call backs.

In Addition, the one that horrifies me the most…a simple oil change customer being told that we can’t see them for a week! I have even had at least one General Manager tell me that he understands that this is happening and he’s hoping the recalls end soon so that we can get back to business as usual. I have literally seen manager after manager completely bought into the “fact” that their staff is simply “too busy to do a good job.”

So, it got me to thinking, why is this the case in some stores while others are prospering with all of the new found traffic? What I’ve come to realize is that it’s nothing more than a level of acceptance for some and not others. I’ve spent some time with a number of service managers that have been handling this level of traffic and collected a few best practices that I thought everyone may benefit from and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share them.

But first, let’s look at a few points that I think are important to discuss before we can really dig into the “nuts and bolts” of what to do. I think it’s super important to develop a mindset that this increase in traffic is actually a good thing. Why? BECAUSE IT IS!!!! Retail 101 says that in order to be successful, you must first have traffic. And there is no doubt that many of you have traffic…and lots of it. Now once you realize that, you must also understand (and this is a point of huge importance) that it will not last forever. The window of opportunity to take advantage of this potential new business is rapidly closing. And while I think it’s very noble of many stores to try to accommodate their recall customers, I also know that if you do it at the expense of your retail maintenance (and repair) business you will lose those customers. Then when the recall business goes away, what will you have? Honestly, nothing but an empty service drive. So what do we do?

  • Consider offering some extended hours for your recall traffic. If you’re struggling to get all of the business that you have through your shop in a timely fashion, why not consider extending your hours? You can service more vehicles AND be there for your customers when they need you most. Let’s say you have 10 technicians that are capable of performing the recalls. Why not consider having 2 stay each night for an additional 2 hours just to perform the recalls. You can set it up so that all of their parts are ready, all of the cars are tee’d up and ready and they have their work orders all prior to your scheduled close of business. This will allow you to get a tremendous amount of work done with a minimum of support staff. If you do this every night for 5 nights, then each of your 10 technicians will have had the same opportunity to collect the extra hours AND you’ll have gotten a large amount of your recalls done in the week. But most importantly, you’ll do it with minimal disruption to your regular work. Then (in the event you’re not already open) consider a few Recall Saturday’s. Consider having half the shop come in for a half or even a whole day on Saturday just to perform the recalls. Most of the technicians that I’ve talked to about this welcome the additional opportunity to make the hours. If this isn’t for you, you could always consider looking into adjusting your work schedule to 4-10’s or 3-13’s structure, where your technicians work four ten hour days, or three thirteen hour days rather than the traditional five eight hour days. There are a tremendous amount of benefits that come with this and while it takes a little bit of effort to get it up and running, the return on that investment is rather great. 
  • Get a menu presented to EVERY customer that comes in. I’ve literally heard every excuse in the book from advisors for not doing this. But if we are being honest with ourselves, it’s nothing more than that….an excuse. A large percentage of the cars that are coming into your shops have some age and mileage on them. So why would you not present a maintenance menu to every one of these customers? This is nothing but opportunity! Just imagine if you presented a menu to every recall customer and only a third of them said yes to the service. How much additional revenue would that gain for your store? And if your menus mirror the owner’s manual recommendations, you’ll get a huge boost in credibility as well.
  • Perform a courtesy inspection on EVERY car. This is almost an echo of the menu but there is another major benefit here. Performing a good courtesy inspection on every car, recall customer or not, is a value added service that will separate you from the rest of the pack that are not providing this service for their customers because they are “too busy” or “wouldn’t be able to handle the additional work anyway”. As was stated before, a large percentage of these vehicles have some age and mileage on them, so the likelihood of them needing some additional services is quite good. Wouldn’t it make sense that even the most discerning customers would consider tires or brakes if their vehicle needed them? Again, think of all of those cars coming into your shop….letting them go through without an inspection is literally throwing money out the window!
  • Include the sales manager. Finally, why not consider getting the sales manager involved? Believe it or not, some of the customers coming in for recalls might actually purchase a new or used car if someone talked to them about it or at least offered them a test drive. In one store that I recently visited, the sales manager had one salesperson come in every day with the advisors and his sole responsibility was to work the service lane in the mornings. He greeted the customers as they arrived in the morning and chatted with them a bit while the advisors were writing repair orders, he even put in floor mats and drove cars out of the lane from time to time. But there was a MAJOR benefit to him doing this…by chatting with the customers, he actually sold a few cars! Before long the sales manager started rotating his sales staff to this position and it was considered a privilege rather than a punishment. In fact, quite a few cars were sold based on this process alone.

The moral of the story is quite simple. In this time of additional traffic, you really only have a couple of choices: You can blame the whole world for how tough it is because of all the additional customers; or you can look yourself in the mirror, realize the great opportunity that’s in front of you and commit to seizing it by developing some process to boost your revenue while not driving business away. I hope you choose the second and you find much continued success.



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