Tracking Online Reputation: You're Still Counting The Wrong Thing
There is no denying that generating new reviews, week in and week out, is a critical component to a dealer’s business process, but a common misconception is that review count then, should be an important number to monitor. Well, it is and it isn’t. Review count should be tracked, but only to measure one thing: does my review solicitation process work? However, the volume of reviews is not a measure of customer satisfaction at all, and more importantly, it does not tell you how your online reviews are impacting your business. For that, we need to look at your average ratings, and we need to look at these average ratings in a manner that most businesses out there are ignoring: by recency and relativity.
Scores vs review volume
Let’s start with the recency factor and for that, we need to back up and discuss why we track scores vs review volume. When businesses started paying attention to reviews, volume was more important. A business might have 50 to 100 reviews on Google and their competition had 5 or 10 reviews. Having a larger volume of lent credibility. That is a much less common scenario today. Also, review volume has grown substantially across the board, where instead of dealers having hundreds of reviews they now have thousands. This is why your average rating is so important. No prospective buyer will read all 827 of your reviews to see what your customer service is like, the average rating tells the story.
Focusing on continued review growth also has become less important because the credibility from 827 reviews vs 881 reviews is likely the same in the consumer's eye. A “lot of reviews” is still a lot of reviews in either scenario. So once you have a good volume of reviews (across all review sites), the focus should be on improving your average rating. The metric to track for this is the average rating of your recent reviews. Many dealers focus on their lifetime average, but once you get a lot of reviews, that lifetime average changes slowly, and so lifetime score doesn’t tell you how effective you are at currently improving your score. It also tells you very little about the current state of your customer experience.
A good number to track would be a rolling 90-day average score of your reviews. This tracks how the customer experience is trending now, so you can find problems sooner rather than later, but also tracks how your current reputation management efforts are impacting your lifetime score, either increasing it or decreasing it. Your 90-day score is an actionable number you can use to make decisions.
Relativity and reputation
The other metric to track with reviews is even more important. I referred to it earlier as relativity, because reputation is a very relative concept. A dealer checks his Google score and sees a 4.2 average rating and might be happy that this meets their “goal”. The reality though is that looking at just that 4.2 number tells this dealership almost nothing about how their reputation is doing and the impact that scores are having on your business. If all the other dealerships in their market average between 4.5 – 4.8 on Google, your score is the worst in your market and almost certainly costing you sales. However, if all other dealers range between 3.5-3.8, then your 4.2 is by far the best and you are sure to be stealing business from the competition.
So when we talk relativity in the review score, we mean tracking your score against the competition. That is what car buyers are looking at and if that is an important metric for them, it has to be important to you.
Car buyers are more likely to decide on the model(s) they want to purchase first and then decide where they are going to purchase as the following step. Competitive review scores then are the metric they use to aid in that decision. There are vendors/tools out there that can provide you a competitive analysis of your review scores, but an easy way to track this on your own is with Google maps.
How does your dealership stack up?
To see how you stack up, first go to Google maps and search your city. Then after it displays your city, click on “Nearby”. Once you do this, the city disappears from the top search box so you can enter the second part of your search. Enter your brand and “dealers”. (ie Toyota Dealers) and click the search button. Now Google displays all those brand dealers in your market along with their review count and score. See how you stack up. If you do not have any competition of your own brand in your market, use “auto dealers” instead and see how you compare to all of the choices a consumer has.
Now that you see how your score relates to the competition, this should be your number 1 goal…increase your average scores so you are #1 in your market. That will make you the first dealership to visit or buy from for many shoppers. By tracking both recency and relativity of your review scores, you will ensure that reviews are helping to drive success for the dealership.