It seems like a week doesn’t go by without the appearance of additional automotive marketing research showing that the information available online with the greatest impact on a dealership’s business is User Generated Content (UGC)…including the dreaded “customer review”.User Generated Content (UGC) includes everything created and published by online users in formats such as consumer posted reviews, business ratings, blog posts, status updates and comments posted about your dealership.
The Cobalt/ADP Team recently published a two-minute video titled “Be Smart – Own Your Own Stars”. It is available at ADMvideos.com and is supportive of including the capture and display of customer reviews within your dealership’s website. The presenter states that exclusively seeking customer reviews posted on third-party sites is a lot like buying a house built on rented land. While I am not advocating anything that would discourage a dealership’s customer from posting their reviews on third party UGC sites, I am advocating a two point review generation strategy consistent with the recommendations made by the Cobalt spokesperson in this dealer education video.
It is more than professionally satisfying to recommend that dealers take ownership of their customer reviews. Such a strategy is also a reasonable and prudent way to protect the investment made in executing a process that includes proactive efforts at getting customers to create feedback and reviews of their experience at the dealership. There is plenty of research to support this as a better approach to a dealer’s reputation management strategy than exclusively relying on third party review sites. BazaarVoice, a company that proclaims itself as the “voice of the marketplace” has repeatedly validated this type of approach in the automotive space. (http://www.bazaarvoice.com/social-commerce-statistics)
For several years I have been using the tools provided by DealerRater.com via their Dealer Certification Program to automatically publish customer reviews on a dealer’s website, Facebook page, Ning Network, blog sites and everywhere that will take either the RSS feed or the embedding widget supplied by DealerRater. In addition to such programs, my recommendation is to use an independent dealership review site specifically set up for the posting of reviews from customers while they are at your dealership.
Results support the conclusion that the most successful reputation management strategies used by dealers will offer convenience and ease of use to car buyers and service customers.Such a strategy focuses on enabling the greatest percentage of customers to post reviews. The dealers that have been the most successful are those that make it easy for sales and service customers to post their reviews to the site they either feel most comfortable with, are already a registered user of, or have an affinity for. Dealers that supplement this strategy by licensing a customer review site that enables customers to post reviews while they are at the dealership are consistently more successful than those that do not.
My recommendation to dealers is that their customer review generation process be segmented into two distinct tactical implementation plans:
- Dealership reviews posted by customers who are not physically present at the dealership to their choice of third-party review sites. This includes customers posting their reviews and ratings from mobile devices, at work, and while at home.
- Dealership review and customer experience surveys collected from customers while they are physically present at the dealership and the sales or service experience is fresh in their memory and top of mind.
- There are several ways to make it easier for customers who are not at the dealership to respond to an email requesting that they post a review of their experience. One of the more effective tactics I have seen is the campaign concept of “You Have A Voice”. The dealer sends an email and publishes a web page that explains why reviews are important for customers to post, and then provides easy access to that dealer’s review submission forms on several third-party sites. The customer selects the icon they are familiar with or feel an affinity for. This approach has proven effective in achieving the elusive goal of getting reviews from customers who are active Yelp Community members – reviews which are the least likely to be filtered out by Yelp.
The landing page at http://LouFuszReviews.com/LouFuszFordReviews.html shown in the following screen capture is an example of this automated email-based strategy for Lou Fusz Ford sales and service customers who are asked to visit this page after they have left the dealership:
Using an ethical and customer-friendly process to facilitate the posting of customer reviews while they are in your dealership is reasonable and practical. The key is to avoid violating third- party review site terms and conditions by providing your customers with the means of posting their reviews to a site that licenses the dealer to incorporate such a practice.Asking customers to provide their review of the way they were treated while completing a customer experience survey is a business best practice. Ensuring that those reviews appear on a third-party review site, the dealership’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, blog, etc., can be an effective way to get them indexed by Google and ensure that prospective customers see them. I recommend and have used both PrestoReviews.com and BusinessRater.com to provide dealership customers with a review site that is independent, but which the dealer has licensed for customers to post reviews while at the dealership’s facility.
Why not ask customers to review their experience at your dealership while it’s still fresh in their minds? My experience has shown that the highest percentage of reviews per customers served are obtained when customers are supplied with the means of posting them as soon as possible after the sale is made or services are received. One of the most important objective measurements used to evaluate a dealership’s reputation management strategy is the percentage of customers sold or serviced that post a review of their experience. A dealership selling 100 units a month and servicing 400 vehicles per month but only getting five customer reviews has a one percent review rate. This metric indicates a failed reputation management strategy, and the aggregate ratings that result are not statistically valid. The higher that percentage of customers that provide feedback and reviews, the more accurate the information becomes and more effective the program is in showcasing the dealership as a great place to do business.
Ralph Paglia is vice president of digital for Tier 10 Marketing and editor-in-chief of the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community (www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com).
In July 2012, Rick Case Honda in Florida decided to adjust their process by asking customers to complete a survey and rate their experience while at the dealership using BusinessRater.com. Since implementing this change, their percentage of reviews per customer sold or serviced has skyrocketed. The Rick Case Honda sales and service teams have been able to get more than 1,000 additional customer reviews. The results reported by the dealership have been dramatically improved, while the team has embraced customer feedback to a greater degree than ever before. Perhaps it is time for you to consider providing your customers with a proactive process to review their experience both while they are at your dealership, and when they get home!0