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The Communication Challenges of an Auto Recall: Are You Ready?

With more than 51 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. in 2015 and nearly 64 million in 2014, it’s becoming abundantly clear that recalls are a fact of life. The recent auto recall related to Takata air bag inflators is being called the largest and most complex recall in U.S. history, and it continues to spiral—as of early July, more than 100 million vehicles worldwide now require service to replace the defective airbag inflators.

Recalls of any size can have a major impact on an organization’s reputation. Auto recalls have additional challenges due to the complexity of the relationships involved—the triangle made up of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), numerous auto dealerships and millions of individual customers. With all parties under pressure, it’s more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open, but that’s easier said than done during the chaos of a recall.

With the OEM’s brand integrity at stake, much of the actual fallout occurs at the dealership level, where employees struggle to assuage an influx of fearful and annoyed customers. Add to this the fact that OEMs, in their efforts to react quickly, may unintentionally send inconsistent messages to their customers—from their dealer partners to their millions of end users.

Yet, believe it or not, a well-managed recall has the potential to leave your business, and your customer relationships, stronger. Showing customers you “have their back,” so to speak, reflects your company’s sense of responsibility, which will be viewed favorably in the long run. Along with that, your ability to reassure and inform customers in a timely fashion promotes public confidence. Communication plays a central role in minimizing the damage and restoring reputation.

Whether you are an OEM or a dealer, a contact center services agency should be part of your recall communication strategy. At InfoCision, we understand how important it is for your business to be proactive in a crisis. The services we provide help manage the flow of communication—from disseminating essential messages to assisting with public outreach efforts—in a professional and consistent manner. Working in close concert with your management team, our coordinated efforts will ensure that your brand emerges from the crisis with its reputation intact. Should a recall situation or other unexpected scenario arise, consider the following in choosing an expert partner:

  • Provide consistent messaging to customers. State-of-the-art integrated voice response technology should be used to send your customers a consistent, clear message. In addition, live Communicators will be able to speak with customers directly, providing the human touch that’s appreciated in challenging times. A highly trained team of professionals in their field will distribute key message points sensitively on your company’s behalf.
  • Resolve issues. The team should act as brand ambassadors, interacting with customers to help them identify if their product is part of the recall, and gathering the associated data, e.g., names, addresses and places of purchase, where necessary. They can also resolve issues by delivering your corporate-directed remedies to customers.
  • Conduct essential crisis-related business throughout your B2B networks. Your contact center partner can help communicate scheduling and new parts information to the appropriate parties, and coordinate calendars as necessary with your sub-suppliers or dealer partners; it can also communicate messages to these organizations on your behalf.
  • Provide around-the-clock service. Customers expect you to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No matter when the need arises, you will be ready.
  • Scalability. Ensure you have the ability to quickly expand when you need additional support, then adjust services back when you don’t. You should only pay for what you need when you need it.

During a recall, what you say and do matters. With the right contact center on your crisis team, chances are good you’ll weather the storm—and maybe even flourish—as a result.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

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