Online Reputation -- Your Future Is In The Stars
You put a lot of blood, sweat, tears and hard work into building a great dealership. Does it all really come down to 5 stars on a web search page? It wasn’t long ago that a single dissatisfied customer had a relatively small sphere of influence. Today, with just a few keystrokes, that same unhappy camper can tell the entire world. It doesn’t matter whether the complaint is accurate or even true, any Grumpy Gus with an axe to grind and internet access can deliver a very unpleasant review and the dreaded 1 star. Fair or not, those bad reviews can spell big trouble. Now what?
First, if you’re not presently monitoring your online reputation based on reviews found on Google, Yelp, Dealerrater.com and various social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, you need to start doing so. If you need convincing consider that 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, 92% will use trust and use a business if it has at least a 4-star rating while 86% will hesitate to purchase from a business with negative online reviews.*
Your rating will vary from resource to resource but since the majority of people are using Google let’s focus on the big “G”. Like most other resources, Google uses a 5-star rating system. A 1-star rating is roughly equivalent to “I hate you”, a 5-star rating equals “I love you”. Google your dealership and you’ll notice right away that the customer ratings are quite prominent, even showing up next to your location on Google’s map. They’re almost impossible for online shoppers to miss which is why they warrant careful monitoring on your part.
Check the total number of reviews for your dealership. If you’re already putting effort into managing your online reputation it’s likely you’ve got well over 100. It’s important to have a reasonable total number of reviews. The ‘sweet spot’ seems to be in the 100-200 range. Too few reviews and you’re susceptible to a couple of bad reviews having a disproportionately negative effect on your total dealer rating while a very small number of glowing reviews and a perfect rating may appear a bit too good to be true. Ideally, you want a healthy sample size to help legitimize your overall rating. Remember, a few bad reviews won’t kill you (provided you’ve responded appropriately) and can help validate the overall authenticity of your reviews since nobody expects any business to have 100% positive reviews.
Next, check your average rating. If it’s 4 stars or above and you’ve got 100 or more total reviews, you’re in pretty good shape, but before you break out the champagne you’ll want to check your closest competitors to see how they’re doing with the number and quality of the reviews they’re receiving. You can bet your customers are reading them—you should too.
Fair or not, there isn’t much you can do about bad reviews—even the ones that aren’t accurate or true. Typically, the only person who can alter or remove a review is the original reviewer. What you can and should do is respond. Keep in mind that the manner in which you respond can go a long way toward mitigating the potential damage a bad review can inflict on your reputation. In every case your response should be professional, measured and non-confrontational. Never argue. Always take the high road and let the reviewer (and review readers) know that all concerns are being heard and identify the efforts being made to correct and resolve any issues. As well, invite the reviewer to contact you directly, and have someone in an elevated position offer his or her email address. If a reviewer has made inaccurate statements that are particularly egregious, you may want to (gently) offer a correction. Review readers can usually tell when a reviewer is being unreasonable or nitpicking and whether their complaint seems legitimate or not. In all cases they will appreciate a thorough, thoughtful, professional response on your part.
Good reviews are golden, and online reputation management is everyone’s job. From the owner to the receptionist, everybody on your team should be aware of the importance of positive reviews and be part of the plan to get more of them. One way to become familiar with the review process is to have your team members write one. Have them choose a favorite restaurant, hotel or other local business and write a review about it. Once your team understands how it works, they’ll have more confidence asking for reviews and explaining to customers how to do it.
So, how do you get more positive reviews for your dealership? Ask. The best time to ask for a review is when a customer is raving about their experience to a salesperson, manager or service advisor whether in person, over the phone, or in an email or letter. Reach out to customers who made positive comments about your dealership on factory surveys. Ask your loyal customers specifically to leave positive reviews on Google and Yelp as those two resources have established an almost universal online presence. Offering a small initiative for their efforts never hurts either.
Here are a few tips and steps you can take to get a better handle on your dealership reviews.
- Understand how various rating and review sites work and make sure you’re engaged. For instance, Yelp allows you to flag false reviews for removal. Note: “False” is not the same as “bad” and only applies when the review obviously does not relate to your business.
- Make sure you’ve claimed and established ownership of your business so you can respond to and deal with reviews.
- Respond promptly to all reviews—negative and positive.
- Be real. Write like a person, not a corporation. Highlight your strengths. Avoid canned, boilerplate responses.
- Ask loyal customers to share their experiences.
- Whenever possible, take it offline and when complaints have been satisfactorily dealt with, ask your customer to modify his or her negative review.
- Tactfully correct inaccuracies and admit mistakes when necessary.
- Be consistent. Make reputation monitoring a priority and a habit.