By Tom Kline —
I'll bet you one dollar ($1.00) you have this issue, too. When you're shopping at the market and see a food product that's "non-GMO," don't you stop and think about it? Follow my logic here, please. If it's "non-GMO," that means it's "natural," right? I mean, if it's not genetically modified, it's natural? So, if it's natural, that indicates it's "real food." So, they didn't insert not-real food into my food. Amiright? So, why do they feel the need to tell me that my food is made up of one hundred (100%) percent food? Why can't they just leave that off the labeling? Am I missing something here? I just want true and genuine food. Likewise, shoppers want a "genuine" dealership, not an artificial corporate one with no personality and a queue for everything. How do you translate this to action, so the customers feel what you are about? Let's just take one step today, and here it is: Respond to your online complaints like a human (and definitely not a robot) and invite the customers into the store to get their problem resolved. You cannot resolve these issues by communicating through postings on websites. All too often, I see dealers have "robo-responses" posted by real people telling the customers that the dealership is "sorry for their experience" and then offering nothing to the customer. Zero, zip, nada. What function is that fulfilling exactly? How does that help either the dealership or the customer? Even worse, I was recently at a dealership group in New England whose policy was to post something which said, "Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your concerns." This was posted after the customers had just spilled their guts telling the dealership, and elaborating to the public, the very nature of the problems. At best, it appeared the dealership was insincere. The issue here is not just a reputational one. When potential buyers are scouring the internet, looking for where to purchase, they read these reviews to determine the genuine nature of the dealership. You really can tell the culture of a store by how its employees respond. So, responding to these reviews will help you sell units, too. I've seen it happen over and over again. Beyond this, an even better practice is when you have earned the right to ask the customer to "update" their review after you have fixed their problem. Here's what those updates should look like. And these are posted from the internet: "Previously, in a letter, I complimented the salesman yet slammed the dealership, which, in hindsight, was unfair since I never met Mr. Kline. After reading my letter, Mr. Kline was concerned enough about my feelings and thoughts about his dealership to invite me into his office and explain why I was so distressed. We listed my complaints and found that some were just anger on my part and unwarranted, yet some were justifiable. He fixed the ones that were justified. I guess the point I am trying to make is that he didn't have to do that. The owner of a corporation took the time to satisfy the concerns of one individual. I think that was great, and he'll have my business for life. Most times, you can get the help you need from the managers, and I'm not saying everyone should be running to the owner with every problem. It's just nice to know that Mr. Kline's door is always open. Thank you." Here's another: "At first, when I got the response back from Tom Kline, I did not respond back. I felt why bother if that is how his employees treat customers. I am sure it is the same way. Well, Mr. Kline kept calling, trying to settle this matter. Finally, he got a hold of my daughter, and we agreed to meet with him. I really did not want to, but my daughter said that it wouldn't hurt anything. I have to say that today I met with Tom Kline, and he was much different than what I accepted. He apologized, listened (truly listened to what I had to say and how I felt). He fixed the problem. I was so far off in my judgment about him, and I am glad that I listened to my daughter. I just knew that I would never use the dealership again for anything, but after dealing with Mr. Tom Kline, I have changed my mind. Thank you very much for your assistance and truly listening." Finally: "First, I want to thank Mr. Kline for his response. I was indeed contacted by Mr. Kline today and have set up a meeting with him soon. I must say any company that will take the time to not only listen to a customer but agrees to make it right is a place I want to do business with. I have never seen an organization except for the military to respond and address a problem so quickly. I look forward to working with Mr. Kline in fixing some concerns I have." There's nothing magical here, just good, old fashioned work. Fixing these complaints is money in the bank. And if you are not going to repair your customers' problems, the government will. Regulatory actions almost always start with unsatisfied customer complaints. Look at the recent regulatory actions against dealers resulting from upset and unresolved customer issues: Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Napleton Automotive $10 million Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Passport Automotive $3.380 million Commonwealth of Massachusetts Jaffarians Ongoing State of California Paul Blanco $27.5 million So, you can sell more units, have happier customers (who will continue to patronize your dealership), and avoid lawsuits and regulatory issues by controlling your online customer issues. By managing and overseeing these internet complaints, you are minimizing your risks and increasing your revenues. Now, that's a non-GMO deal if I've ever heard one!