What Does Your Dealership Expect From Your Reputation Management Service Provider?
||by Ryan Kenny, Automotive Reputation Management Specialist
There is a common misconception about the field of Reputation Management and companies that offer this product or solution.
Many business owners mistakenly believe that hiring a Reputation vendor will erase months, in some cases even years worth of unflattering reviews from 3rd party review sites without much in-store effort.
The truth is, anyone who tells you they can remove negative reviews and flood your 3rd party listings with 5 star reviews is either lying or potentially committing illegal and deceptive acts, which will eventually come back to haunt your business. Great reviews must be earned through implementing customer-centric business practices and training your staff on the importance of providing excellent service.
Many dealers find themselves unprepared when they discover they have negative reviews online and seek out the help of people, like me, to come in and “fix” their online reputation.
As a Reputation Management Specialist, the hardest part of my job is helping dealerships understand that removing negative reviews (if I had the ability to do so) does not solve the underlying issue that’s causing the negative reputation in the first place.
Your dealership’s reputation and online perception is a product of your company’s culture and the business processes you currently subscribe to. While it’s true that not every review accurately represents the true circumstances that took place, your overall online reputation usually reflects how your store is performing, at least in the eyes of your customers.
Many reviewers go to great lengths to write long, detailed accounts of their experience at your dealership with their emotions and expletives firing in every direction. Instinctively, we become defensive and want to fire back. Part of my job is to help illustrate some of the valid points made by customers, especially if there are recurring complaints clearly not being addressed in store. The same way that our bodies use pain to tell us something is wrong, online reviews should be used to tell you something isn’t right at your dealership.
It’s important to recognize that the customer took valuable time out of their day to provide you with feedback so that you can improve your business.
Some dealers opt to use a Reputation Management vendor to deal with their online reviews so they can ignore the problem and go back to focusing on selling more cars. Reputation Management is not a turn-key Band Aid that will magically turn your store into a 5 Star dealership. Make no mistake, my company and countless others are more than happy to provide you with ongoing consultation, review monitoring and response coaching.
But contrary to popular belief, I don’t have a bat signal or top secret phone line to Yelp and Google to remove those pesky negative reviews on your behalf and neither does anyone else.
“RepMan” providers truly are excellent tools for assisting in reactive reputation management.
Anyone who genuinely wants to manage their reputation effectively while being able to take on the daily tasks of selling and servicing cars should utilize a reputation management service provider. But remember they are tools. Without the entire dealership fully engaged on a DAILY basis, your results will remain disappointing. It takes time, effort and determination on your part.
Many dealerships do the same thing over and over again and expect different results when it comes to how they react and treat customer reviews.
Most consumers do not believe that it should take three hours to perform a basic oil/filter service.
If it does at your dealership, don’t be surprised when customers consistently gripe about it. Recurring complaints like these should be a signal that there are bottlenecks that need to be addressed. Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the voice of your customers will only earn you more bad reviews. Those who are serious about earning a solid online reputation should take full ownership of it, get their entire staff bought in, and use a Reputation Management vendor as a supplemental tool to take your online reputation to the next level. Your store’s reputation starts with you!
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The Street Smart Guide to Automotive Reputation Management
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|About the Author
||Ryan Kenny joined Cobalt in the summer of 2012 as a Reputation Management Specialist, bringing with him 15 years of Auto Industry experience working in various capacities at dealerships and automotive vendors. Ryan’s background is utilized on a daily basis as he works to improve the online reputations of his many dealer clients. Ryan holds degrees in both Business Administration and Automotive Marketing. You can reach Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org..
via Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community.
Is It Time For Car Dealers To Provide Customers With Online Review Resources?
In my opinion, and based on what most automotive consumer research is showing, the single most important category of information that appears online which will impact the revenue and profits of car dealers in North America in 2013 and 2014 is User Generated Content (UGC). This user published information is in the form of automotive consumer generated reviews, ratings and commentary published about car dealerships.
Earlier today I responded to several comments on a blog posted by Rick Mosca. After spending a few minutes creating and posting my comment, I realized that the topics I described and recommendations made would make for a good ADM Forum discussion. Why? Because I know there are enough ADM Members who disagree with my recommendations to dealers in regards to Reputation Management Strategy and Tactics that a discussion of this topic will have value to the ADM Community… So, let me share what those recommendations are and please do post your comments below either agreeing with, or refuting my recommendations that follow… or simply adding to this very important discussion.
Please take two minutes to watch the video embedded below from the Cobalt/ADP Team titled “Be Smart – Own Your own Stars”. The second half of this video is the important part. Last Friday I featured this video on ADM because it is the first time I have seen an organization as strict about their research data based recommendations to car dealers as Cobalt/ADP is, make statements supportive of components within the Reputation Management strategy I have been using with dealers for several years. Admittedly, Cobalt/ADP is recommending that dealers include customer testimonials and reviews within their primary dealership website.
I agree with their recommendations made in the Cobalt/ADP Reputation Management video regarding dealers taking ownership of the customer reviews that result from their proactive efforts at getting customers to create them. For several years I have been using the tools provided by DealerRater when a dealer participates in their Certification Program to publish customer reviews within a dealer’s website, Facebook Page, Ning Network, Blog sites and everywhere that will take either an RSS feed or the embedding widget supplied by DealerRater. In addition to the great tools that DealerRater provides its Certified Dealers, I recommend using an independent dealership review site that is specifically set up for dealers to collect reviews from their customer while the customer is at the dealership.
The Reputation Management strategy I recommend to car dealers states that when it comes to encouraging customers to write and post reviews, dealers should make it as easy as possible for each sales and service customer to post their reviews to the review site they feel most comfortable with, are a registered and active user of, or have an affinity with… HOWEVER, the smart dealer will have created a customer review and ratings site that the dealership has control over, and which provides a license to the dealership for customers to post reviews while they are physically present at the dealership.
Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community
I have stated on numerous occasions and my experience with many dealers validates that a dealership review strategy should be essentially segmented into two tactical implementations:
- Dealership Reviews posted by customers who are not physically present at the dealership. This includes customers posting their reviews and ratings from mobile devices, at work and while at home.
- Dealership Reviews 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.
I have seen many ways a dealership makes it super easy for customers who are not at the dealership to respond to an email requesting that they provide a review of their experience at the store. One of the most effective I have seen is the concept of “You Have A Voice” where the dealer or group provides a landing page which explains why reviews are so important for dealership customers to post, and provides easy single click access to the specific review form for that dealership on several review site platforms. This allows the customer to select the icon they are familiar with, or feel an affinity for. It is a great way to get reviews from customers who are active Yelp Community members.
The Lou Fusz Ford Reviews landing page shown in the following screen capture image is a good example of this strategy for people not present at the dealership:
Since Google Reviews first appeared I have frequently said that the one thing we can always count on Google for is to change their algorithms, products, policies and guidelines… They have consistently, since 2000, changed the way anything that is shown to their search engine user appears over and over and over again.
For a dealer to rely on Google as the primary review site they recommend to customers is ludicrous! It has been and has not changed, just more and more people are finally waking up to the reality that Google, more than any other online customer review resource is likely to change the way they display, or do not display customer reviews as an ongoing continuous improvement process… And, Google is seeking improvements that are most certainly NOT intended for the car dealer, but rather these changes are intended to improve their search engine user’s experience.
I enjoy using many Google products and find them to be highly useful and effective, but one thing I have learned since I started working with Google over ten years ago… If you are not paying for it (and sometimes even when you are) you do not want to create a process or strategy that is dependent upon Google NOT CHANGING that application or web based resource. Heck, in general, unless a dealer has a PAID LICENSE or some form of fee based ownership, you do not want to place high value assets (such as reviews) in that application as part of your marketing strategy.
Encouraging customers to post reviews while they are in your dealership is reasonable and practical if you are providing them with an easy to use means of posting their reviews to a site the dealership owns or licenses (controls). Asking customers to post reviews while completing a customer experience survey is a business best practice. When those reviews appear on a dealership’s website, Facebook Page, Blog site, etc. then that is a great way to get them indexed by Google and ensure maximum eyeballs are on them. I like both PrestoReviews and BusinessRater as tools designed to provide dealership customers with a review site that is independent of the dealer’s own website, but which the dealer has licensed and controls. Plus, both dealer review site suppliers encourage “Point Of Sales” Customer Reviews as being the most accurate and timely… Which they are.
The benefits of being able to resolve a customer concern issue before the customer leaves the dealership is, in fact, a competitive advantage for dealers who implement such a process over those that do not.
Why not ask customers to evaluate and document their experience while still fresh in their minds? All the research in this area shows that the highest percentage of reviews per customers served, and the most accurate reviews are when customers are encouraged and supplied with the means of posting them as soon as possible after the goods or services are received… Including new and used cars, as well as repairs and maintenance.
As for the way customers use the Google Search Engine, there is no doubt that Google is the primary tool used by car buyers to find information about car dealers and the vehicles they may be interested in buying… However, Customer Review sites other than Google appear prominently in the SERP for dealership branded search queries, as they should…
If a site is valuable to consumer users of Google’s search engine, then Google will ensure prominent placement of that site in their SERP.
Last August my friends at Rick case Honda in Davie Florida started taking control of their reputation management and switched from encouraging customers to post reviews to DealerRater, Google and Yelp after they left the dealership, to asking customers to complete a customer survey and rate their experience at the dealership using the dealership’s new BusinessRater.com review site and account.
The Rick Case Honda sales and service teams have since been able to get their customers to post well over a thousand reviews, The Google SERP results for “Rick Case Honda Reviews” for Davie, FL Google users are shown in this screen capture from earlier today:
- So… What do you recommend?
- Do you agree with the concept that dealers should have control over the customer reviews they proactively seek from their customers?
- Should dealers ask customers to answer a survey and review their experience while they are still at the dealership?
- Should dealers send an email to customers with links to the major review sites and ask the customer to choose whichever review site they feel most comfortable using?
via Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community.
- English: A business ideally is continually seeking feedback from customers: are the products helpful? are their needs being met? Constructive criticism helps marketers adjust offerings to meet customer needs. Source of diagram: here (see public domain declaration at top). Questions: write me at my Wikipedia talk page (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Your dealership’s online reputation will determine whether automotive consumers choose you or one of your competitors. You can also be sure that if you do not manage your online reputation, it will be managed by other people, who will inevitably post reviews, comment on your business in forums and social media sites, publish blog write-ups concerning your business, and more. For this reason, you need to do everything you can to ensure that what people see when they find your business online is as positive as possible. How do you do that? Here are three helpful tips to make sure your online reputation is protected:
- Monitor your reputation. Make use of social media monitoring tools like HootSuite, and web monitoring tools like Google Alerts, to find out what others are saying about you, when they say it. When you know what you are facing, it makes it much easier to address it in a timely manner, and also to assess your best approach.
- Participate. It is inevitable that people are going to talk about your business (if you are doing things right). Your best bet is to involve yourself in the conversation. Make it a point to respond to both positive and negative feedback, and also to volunteer information that will help keep online conversations about your business going. Establish your social media presence, maintain a website, write a business blog, or more – the possibilities are really only limited by your imagination (and the amount of effort you are willing to put in). Just remember that participation is key.
- Optimizing your responses. Once you have developed the habit of monitoring your online reputation and have established yourself as a willful participant in the development of your online reputation, you need to make sure you are participating in a way that is most conducive to bettering that reputation. As previously mentioned, participation is key. However, there are some best practices to consider, especially when it comes to handling negative items: respond in a timely manner (NEVER ignore negative feedback), be diplomatic and fair, avoid using a defensive or demeaning tone (stay positive!), and offer viable solutions.
From Rick Mosca’s article at 3 Helpful Tips to Make Sure Your Online Reputation is Protected! – Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community.
- #bdi Social Reputation Management Conference NYC March 2010 (8) (Photo credit: ShashiBellamkonda)
GM Primary Reputation Management
An SFE compliant affordable self-service solution
Seattle, WA — Cobalt’s Reputation Management solution has been approved by General Motors (GM) for the 2013 Standards for Excellence (SFE) program. Any dealer who enrolls in the 2013 SFE program can enroll in the Reputation Management program from a certified vendor.
Cobalt is offering a base reputation management package that includes everything you need to monitor what your customers are saying online and to help develop credible online reviews for your dealership. Optional enhancements include…Visit [http://hub.am/Wa8kZl] to enroll.
Additionally, dealers may be eligible for reimbursement for these services under the GM iMR (In-Market Retail) Turnkey Program in which GM reimburses dealerships for a portion of eligible local advertising and marketing costs incurred from approved vendors.
To learn more about Cobalt, the GM iMR Turnkey program, or the SFE Reputation Management program, please call (206) 219-8000, email email@example.com or visit [http://hub.am/Wa8kZl].
Your Reputation Matters
- 91% of consumers say they trust reviews*
- Increase positive customer reviews online
- Improve your CSI scores
- Manage and report on your reputation through the Dealer Command Center
- Integrate reviews on your website to attract customers and drive search engine results rankings
* Source: 2011 Google ZMOT Study Helpful FAQs
GM Primary Reputation Management for Just $295
Announcing a new self service tool: GM Primary Reputation Management; strategic for showcasing and managing your dealership’s amazing reputation. Get enrolled today and be SFE compliant!
The program will provide you tools to:
- Grow reviews and stars through a simple automated survey
- Drive more traffic to your website and boost search engine rankings with review pages on your iMR website
- Manage and respond to your reputation from Dealer Command Center with the easy to use Reputation Management Dashboard
GM Dealer Enrollment
Interested in our full service Power Reputation Management solution? Learn More
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the GM Primary Reputation Management?
GM Primary Reputation Management is a self-service, reputation management solution providing the best tools and technology in the market to generate reviews, manage your online reputation and leverage customer feedback to showcase the dealer’s brand and commitment to providing great customer service and promoting their online reputation. This solution also fulfills your Standards for Excellence (SFE) reputation management requirement for 2013.
What does it cost?
The solution cost is $295 per month with a $495 set up
How long do I have to enroll in a reputation management program to be SFE compliant?
Dealer enrollment will run from November 15, 2012 through January 15, 2013.
What do I get with the GM Primary Reputation Management solution?
- State of the art review survey email generation platform integrated with your DMS. Every night the email platform will automatically send a survey to customers (with valid email addresses) that have a closed Purchase or Service transaction in the DMS that day, so your customers get asked for feedback within 24-48 hours of their experience in your store.
- An intuitive dashboard to monitor your reviews, respond to them and track trends in your reputation, accessible through Dealer Command Center.
- Insightful reporting and analytics from your reputation management metrics, accessible through Dealer Command Center.
- Integrated review pages directly on your program retail website to showcase your great reputation and drive your reputation management and additional search engine optimization for your dealership’s brand.
- You will also be automatically informed via email of a negative review so that you can instantly address and comment on the review in a timely fashion.
How long does it take to set up the product?
It can take up to 30 days to get dealer review surveys working, third party review site links set up correctly and your review pages and dashboard in place. This process can be a little longer to fully implement the solution if we do not get the accurate third party review site URLs or DMS polling data information. Dealer engagement is essential to the success of getting business listings set up properly, the customer email information for the automated review generations, and in store processes working.
Can the survey emails be customizable?
The survey structure feeds an insert into the dealer’s dashboard and website and triggers other automation processes. Modifying the survey could break this automation. It’s designed by email marketing experts to garner the highest response rates from customers. We see upwards of 15-20% response rates on these surveys from our current customer base on our retail Power Reputation Management solution. Surveys will include dealership branding.
What customers will get surveys?
Any customer with a GM brand car and valid email address in the DMS that has:
- Purchased a new (Retail) or Certified Pre-Owned car
- Leased a new (Retail) car
- Serviced a car under warranty or through customer pay
Where can I learn more?
To learn more about GM’s SFE program dealers can visit GM Excellence to find out more program details
To learn more about the Cobalt dashboard make sure to watch the Dashboard Skills Training on Cobalt U.
Check out the Cobalt Analytics Quick Guide on Cobalt U to understand how to analyze reputation management strategy and performance.
Do I need to collect my customers email addresses?
There are many reasons to collect your customers email addresses. Primarily, we need to have the customers email address in order to send out the thank you emails after service and sales to drive customer surveys and reviews. General other reasons email addresses are important are for
- Manufacturer-based service reminders and specials
- Important safety recalls
- Pre-sales email only specials or offers
What if I don’t want to manage this in house, do you have an option to manage the solution for my dealership?
Yes, we offer a plus up, the Power Reputation Management solution that is also SFE compliant. So you’ll have all the tools and technology to proactively generate reviews, insights through your dashboard and reporting, as well as the SEO optimized website pages, but we will also provide you with white-glove service to manage, monitor and help your dealership drive your reputation strategy.
- A Reputation Management Specialist (RMS) – these are college educated automotive experts with years of experience in account management, specifically in the review and reputation management world. They will:
- Manage, monitor and track reviews not only from your automatic surveys but also on the third party sites, like Google, Yelp and Yahoo so you can spend time selling cars.
- Set up and optimize your business listing through photos, text, categories, and best practices.
- Monitor the automatic alerts of both negative and positive reviews so they can help craft responses and work with your dealership as a natural expert in review response.
- Provide specific in-store assets to help drive your strategy, like QR codes and marketing strategies to leverage your customer reviews.
- Deliver consistency and accuracy to your reputation management strategy though alignment with your dealer brand, third party review sites, and your website.
- Facebook review syndication app to promote your reviews on your Facebook page.
- Power Reputation Management can be purchased for $1095/month that is 100% eligible for co-op reimbursement and a one-time set up fee of $1295.
GM Dealer Enrollment
Contact program support at 1-877-344-6031 or your dealership’s assigned ProCare Advocate.
via Cobalt: Approved Supplier to General Motor’s 2013 Standards for Excellence Reputation Management Program
Jerry Hart writes: “The Genie is out of the bottle and he’s not going back in. Dealers no longer have the luxury of sticking their heads in the sand and waiting for the storm to pass. The increased use of social media allows news to travel around the world in a matter of seconds. There is no more hoping that a scandal will disappear quietly. Once something is published online, there really is no way to remove it entirely. Even if they original page is deleted, you do not know how many thousands of other pages have referenced the original. The advent of social media means that news, good and bad, travels around the world and back in a matter of moments. One complaint or pieces of negative press can snowball and turn into a disastrous, reputation-destroying avalanche. Everybody is online these days, looking for information about products and services. Therefore, managing your reputation online is extremely important.” Use the link provided to read the rest of Jerry’s thought and action provoking article, and please be so kind as to leave him a comment…
via Dealers finding it difficult to put a price on online reputation building – Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community.
Business Networking Group Gets Busted For Yelp Review Posting Ring
Well it never ceases to amaze me on the efforts people will go to create a fake review. It seems like the stakes of the game have gone even higher.
Los Angeles Times writers Jessica Guynn and Andrea Chang shared a story about a business networking group that conspired together to post fake reviews for each others businesses.
South Bay BNI Accused Of Posting Fake Reviews
According to the Los Angeles Times article:
“Yelp stripped the suspect reviews from its site last month and sent emails to members of the group — known as South Bay BNI — informing them that their behavior was out of bounds.
“This was a sophisticated effort to bolster the reputation of members of this business networking group through five-star reviews,” said David Lee, Yelp’s user operations manager. “Reviews that have a bias lead to a poor consumer experience.”
Posting Fake Reviews Is So Short Sighted
What business owners need to understand is that if they are busted for posting fake reviews, the organic “coverage” of that event will often stay on Google Page One for a long time. You don’t want articles appearing on Google Page One that imply that your business is involved is review scams.
You most often will be removed from the online business directory as well, which can cost a business thousands of dollars in profits and for car dealers, thousands of site visits a month!
If you Google “South Bay BNI Yelp” you can see that a number of articles are being indexed on their group name including a post that talks about how valuable Yelp reviews are to local members.
I clicked on the article highlighted in red and it looks like their own website posted an article outlining their “excitement” of just how well Yelp works when you have many positive reviews. The hushed conversation which we can only guess is how they encouraged their members to get these reviews.
Yelp discovered the pattern of behavior and busted the group’s actions. Here is the post from their own website with a great line: “Givers Gain On Yelp Too!“. It’s obvious that Yelp felt that they gave too much!
Lessons Learned Or Not?
There have been many threads on this website discussing the importance of monitoring and managing your online reputation that is established through websites like Google+ Local, Yelp.com, Cars.com, DealerRater.com, PrestoReviews.com, and the AAN.
- Most businesses have ample numbers of happy customers that are willing to post a review. Don’t rush the process and never post fake reviews. Merchandizing your store and encouraging your customers to share their experience online can be a very natural process. Be patient and do it right.
- Never involve your NCM/NADA 20 Group Members or State Association Members to conspire to post for each other. The South Bay BNI business group thought they would never get caught.
- Never use a proxy service to collect reviews using a third party web based form and then posting the collected information using dummy accounts on review sites. There are a number of companies that have convinced dealers that this is a legitimate way to increase reviews on Google and Yelp. It violates their Terms of Service (TOS) and can get your company in hot water.
- Don’t put your eggs in one basket. Yelp determined that this group of business owners scammed the system and deleted their reviews. It is very possible that Yelp or any review platform that you don’t control can take down your reviews for ANY REASON. So, don’t create a review process that points customers only in one place.
- If you need help establishing a solid “pressure free” and compliant process, ask for help. You can register for the next free Reputation Management webinar presented by Glenn Pasch, by sending your full contact information to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reputation Management Workshop at AutoCon
You can also participate in a number of great workshops at AutoCon 2012 that pertain to Reputation Management.
- Heather from DealerRater will be conducting a workshop entitled: “The Do’s & Don’ts of Managing and Leveraging Your Online Reputation“
- Richard Bastillo GM from Rick Case Honda will be conducting a workshop entitled: “Reputation Management Strategies and Tactics that work at Rick Case Honda“
- Mike Myers from Milham Ford/Toyota will be conducting a workshop entitled: “I Hate/Love My Online Reputation“
To register and lock in the AutoCon Early Bird Rate visit: http:/www.AutoCon2012.com
via Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community.
Transparency is Not a Dirty Word
Jim Radogna writes: “Let’s face it; consumers have access to much more information, and choices, than they ever did. You can hate the internet and all its information. You can hate the idea of “transparency”. You can hate all the regulations that dealers have to contend with. You can hate the consumer advocates. You can hate the media and all of its anti-dealer sensationalism. But guess what? None of it is going away. The “But We’ve Always Done It This Way” mentality just doesn’t hold water anymore.” Use the link provided to read Jim’s insightful article and leave him a comment…
via Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community.