We all know that an unsatisfied customer is more likely to share their experiences than a happy customer. As the saying goes, “a happy customer tells a friend, while the unhappy customer tells the world.”
There is now data that clearly defines the importance of social media and review sites in the car buying process. The groundbreaking Automotive Dealership Social Media and Online Reputation Study (October 2012) highlights the importance of social networks and review sites in the car buying process. With review sites impacting online traffic more than ever before, dealers should have a solid plan to manage their online reputation.
Many dealers recognize that they should pay more attention to online review sites. The problem is not having the resources to do it correctly. Knowing how to manage your online reputation can pose significant challenges. The study showed us that up to 95 percent of dealers trying to manage this in-house do not even respond to reviews.
Based on working with thousands of dealers nationwide, we’ve found these to be the top three strategies that every dealership should consider implementing:
1. Know the top sites and have a specific plan to manage them.
The study revealed that the top four review sites used to determine dealership selection were Cars.com, Edmunds, Yelp and Google+ Local. While these sites may seem obvious to most dealers, many dealers do not fully claim or enhance their listings on the top sites. Dealers not paying attention to these sites lose the opportunity to market their dealership through responses and the chance to save a potentially unhappy customer.
Tip: Monitoring and responding to reviews should be assigned to a specific person in the dealership. Put the task on a calendar, such as your monthly advertising calendar, and require them submit reports on the status of each site including your number of reviews, star rating, and how quickly they responded to a review. If you are considering working with a full-service vendor, require they also submit a monthly report to you with the same details. Ensure that the responses are personal and that they notify you of both the reviews and the responses.
2. Have a plan to regularly survey customers and direct happy customers to review sites.
Establish a formal and consistent process for surveying your customers, if you haven’t done this already. This doesn’t have to mean flooding your customers with yet another email, but take a look at what you are already sending them post-sale/service today and adjust the content. Not only should you thank them for their business, but also ask them to take a quick survey to give you feedback. Then ask the happiest customers (or all customers, if you are open to full transparency) to post a public review about their experience.
It is imperative to continually encourage your good customers to provide more reviews. This will increase the number of reviews and insure the reviews are fresh and current. Car buyers want to see a lot of reviews; as a matter of fact 81 percent of car buyers in the study said that a review site rating must have five or more reviews to be credible.
Tip: Work with a vendor that will help survey your customers and work closely with your internal teams to ensure that unhappy customers are contacted and the happiest ones are invited to leave a public review. There are many “smart survey” options available to dealers. Some vendors are approved for co-op or additional funds from manufacturers helping to cover any external cost.
3. Use both review site and survey feedback to improve dealership operations.
It is human nature to dread negative surveys results or reviews, but in reality you should embrace them. Whether the content is totally accurate or not is irrelevant; perception is reality in the mind of the customer and now their version of “reality” might be on a public review site for the rest of the world to see. Take all feedback and look for trends and opportunities to improve. Is the same staff member continually mentioned in negative reviews? Is there an operations issue that could be fixed, resulting in more happy customers?
Tip: Compiling reviews and survey feedback should be assigned to a senior manager on your team. They should be required to review all highlights/trends in your executive staff meetings. Make it a team effort to fix the high level issues and ensure that each manager report back on specific resolutions to each concern.
Progressing in any of these areas will help your dealership improve its online reputation, increase the number of happy customers and ultimately help to sell more cars.
Alexi Venneri is cofounder, CMO, and COO-social media of Digital Air Strike and has been in the automotive industry for over 15 years; she has worked on the dealer and vendor side and has partnered with multiple OEMs. Prior to co-founding DAS she was president of the Van Tuyl Automotive Group advertising agency and she was also CMO at DealerTrack and Who’s Calling.