In a recent study, 71% of respondents said they used their mobile devices during the vehicle purchasing process. Another poll revealed that almost 90% of consumers have read businesses’ online reviews to help them gauge the quality of those businesses; 72% say positive reviews make them trust a business more; and 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
We’ve already written about how your website can help you close more car sales, but how do you handle information about your dealership on other sites?
In order to manage your online reputation, you have to first know what that reputation is. When’s the last time you googled your dealership? Take a good look at your listings on common car sites like Cars.com, Edmunds.com and DealerRater.com. Next, look at more general ratings websites, such as Yelp.com and Facebook reviews. Finally, set up a Google alert so that you know when your business has been mentioned online.
Once you’ve established a baseline knowledge of your online reputation, you can start working on improving it.
Solicit customer reviews. Assuming you follow up with customers after a sale or service (you do, don’t you?), it’s fair to ask them to leave you a review. Asking in person is fine, but if you actually email them a link to the review site—whether it’s your own site, Facebook, Yelp, or somewhere else—you make it easier for them to just click and type. Another benefit of sending customers a direct link is that if you are aware that you need more or better reviews on a particular site, you can direct happy customers towards the site of your choice.
Amplify good reviews. When a customer leaves a positive review, make sure everyone in your social network sees it. Responding with warm thanks on Facebook not only reinforces that customer’s good opinion—it also bumps that comment up to the top of your news feed so that more people notice it. (And remember what your mother said about thank-you notes? They’re just the right thing to do.) When positive reviews come in via Yelp, your website or another platform, the rules about responding still apply—and you can quote positive reviews on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to get the word out.
Deal with bad reviews head on. Every dealership—every business, in fact—gets bad reviews some times. We all have bad days, and that includes customers. So whether the fault is yours or you’re dealing with an unreasonable reviewer, it’s important that you respond within 48 hours using the 3 p’s: planned, professional, and proactive.
1. Planned. Make sure you take the time to formulate a strategy before responding to a negative comment or review online. This prevents you from saying something in a heated moment that you may regret later.
2. Professional. Make sure you keep your response polite, even if your reviewer says something you passionately disagree with. Your answer to a negative comment affects not only that reviewer’s opinion of you, but it can also influence potential customers’ willingness to give your dealership a chance. A great response that takes responsibility for any misdeed and lays out a solution can actually net you a more positive online reputation than you had before the negative review.
3. Proactive. Don’t just apologize or defend your dealership’s actions. State the remedy that you’re going to provide—whether it’s training for your staff, a change to policy, or your intention to look into the issue and contact the customer privately. Remember, your public response is as much for potential customers as it is for the disgruntled reviewer—perhaps even more so. So if you plan to contact the customer privately to discuss the issue, say so in your review response.
Keep in mind that it’s normal to receive a few less-than-glowing reviews. In fact, a sprinkling of 3-star reviews might actually make your reviews appear more objective and believable to potential customers than a squeaky-clean listing of one 5-star review after another.
What about negative reviews that are clearly false or defamatory? Every review site has a procedure for removing reviews that violate the site’s rules or seem fake or designed to promote someone else’s business. Follow those processes when you feel you’ve been truly wronged.
Beyond reviews: Be active in your community. Sponsor charitable events and kids’ sports teams, put a float in the local parade, and just generally be a good corporate citizen. Not only will you make the world a slightly better place and improve your local reputation, you’ll see your dealership mentioned online in association with great causes.
And remember that your dealership’s online reputation begins with the in-store experience. Make sure salespeople, managers, receptionists and service staff understand the importance of offering a positive experience to all customers, whether they make a purchase or not.