You can’t sell a car without building some level of trust—that’s auto sales 101. From hiring the right sales team to publicizing your auto dealer bond, there are a lot of ways to do this. Where things get complicated, and where opportunities arise, is where technology meets that industry reality. Chances are, there’s a lot you’re not doing to harness the power of trust to boost your sales.
One of the best examples out there is customer reviews. While this has been a staple of e-commerce since the early days of the Internet, auto dealerships have been slow to realize its potential. Here’s why that needs to change now and what changes it can make in your business.
Ranking and understanding trust
In the digital age, online reviews have been just as important as in-person recommendations. That trend is only increasing, with the same study finding that people place more trust in online reviews year after year. This is particularly important for auto dealers, as they face some of the lowest trust rates of any type of business in the U.S. Gallup found in 2012 that only 8% of respondents believed auto dealers were honest.
So it’s an uphill climb, but there’s enormous potential here.
Looking at the industry as a whole, it’s clear that auto dealers should be focusing on external sources of trust for their business and products. With online reviews becoming an ever more reliable source of trust for your customers, it’s time to take them more seriously and fully integrate them into your business. It all boils down to using reviews the right way.
The importance of incentivizing online reviews
Integrating reviews in your business can’t start and end with setting up a star rating and comment section on your dealership site. Getting the most out of reviews starts with a strategy. The best way to start is with incentives.
This could be anything from a day on a driving track to a free detailing job, but offering incentives to leave reviews shows your customers that you’re eager for their feedback. In addition, a customer who receives an incentive instantly becomes a positive source of PR.
In any case, you can’t simply expect detailed and helpful feedback without any reason. It’s well understood that negative experiences are more likely than positive ones to push someone to leave a review. So, balance those odds with incentives. Still, negative reviews are an inevitability, so how should you respond?
Handling negative reviews of your dealership
There are two keys to handling negative reviews properly. The first, and most important, is to respond. You should always respond to the reviewer’s concerns, experience, and perspective in a positive and constructive manner.
CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, Shama Kabani, said in an article for Forbes that people do not expect perfection online, but are instead looking for humanity and a genuine response. Kabani believes a negative review is an opportunity for you to respond in a positive and transparent manner, which makes a good impression on customers.
In fact, as Kabani pointed out, it’s an excellent opportunity to turn the scales and point out the positive qualities of your business. This is a delicate job, and one best left to someone who has the time to develop this critical skill. This same employee should be assigned to monitoring and approving comments to prevent spam or inappropriate content from ending up on your site.
Bringing everything together into a strategy
Before you start implementing any of the suggestions above, make sure you’ve got a full plan in place. Creating the ability to leave reviews without someone to review and respond to to them is putting the cart before the horse.
Start with a solid strategy from day one and you’ll be set to harness the power of your customers to build a trusted brand and a successful dealership.
Of course, there are still many other ways to build trust, including mentioning your auto dealer surety bond in your advertising. Getting bonded is all about trust and providing for your customers, so it makes sense to use it as an advertising tool. It all comes down to constantly looking for ways to innovate in your marketing and searching for ways to develop better customer relationships.
Eric Halsey is a historian by training and disposition who’s been interested in U.S. small businesses and marketing since working at the House Committee on Small Business in 2006. Coming from a family with a history of working on industry policy, he has a particular interest in auto dealers and professional certification; he loves sharing his knowledge of the industry for JW Surety Bonds.0