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
Learn more reputation management myths and insights, as well as some compelling data on the proven impact of reviews in the car-buying process.
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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.
- 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
American Car and Truck Shoppers Are Now Choosing Which Dealership to Visit Based on Customer Posted Reviews in the Web – Reputation Management Now Becomes Required Dealer Skill Set
Car Shoppers Head to Review Sites for Research Before Selecting a Dealership
Seventy percent of automotive consumers said dealership reviews affected their purchase decision
Just like consumers in almost every other sector of ecommerce, car shoppers are doing their research online before heading out to make a purchase. According to an April 2012 poll by Digital Air Strike of US consumers who had purchased a car in the last six months, review sites were a widely used tool by car buyers during the research phase of their purchase process. In fact, 69% of consumers said review sites had an impact on the dealership they visited.
Half of respondents said reading reviews of dealerships had affirmed their choice of where to make a purchase, while about one-quarter said the reviews had no effect on them. But online feedback from other customers held an outsized influence on a small minority of car shoppers—14% said reviews were the sole reason they had decided to visit a dealership. And 5% decided to change the dealership they bought from after reading negative reviews online.
And when it came to actually buying, almost seven in 10 shoppers said reviews had aided them in their purchase decision. About four in 10 said the reviews helped them in a general sense, while three in 10 had decided to purchase from a particular dealer based on online feedback from other customers. Moreover, if a dealership had been completely absent from review sites, one in 10 respondents would have been less likely to purchase from them.
Digital Air Strike’s report also audited 600 US dealerships to gauge their social media presence, finding that most dealers had a lax attitude to Facebook, with only 5% posting on the social network daily. In fact, 42% of dealers posted with a frequency of less than once a week.
eMarketer estimates that US online ad spending by the automotive industry will hit $4.35 billion in 2012, and climb to $7.44 billion by 2016.
Read more at www.emarketer.com/
I work with many dealers around the country in setting up their Reputation Management strategy and tactical processes. I have heard many dealers initially express skepticism, and then in many cases believe they have it all handled with iPads to do Google+ Reviews, or DealerRater Certified, etc. The reality of what works best will almost always include giving consumers some degree of choice as to selecting the dealership’s business profile on the consumer review network they feel most comfortable with. But, back to your point, it has been my experience that dealers consider the whole evolution of, and creation of consumer reviews online as a big disruption to their marketing and reputation models, and not in the best way… This sort of frustration, and feeling of not being in control along with a very unclear accountability sequence can make many dealers and GM’s just plain irritated with the whole subject. For me, and the dealers I serve, when I present a logical, well laid out plan to get a handle on the dealership’s online reputation management strategy that also solves several other nagging areas of irritation, then most dealers and GM’s tha I have worked with simply say “OK, how long to get this in place?” and they want the whole thing set up and processes implemented ASAP…. (which is a whole other problem)
As for the very important review generating process when customers are actually at the dealership, I recommend using ether Presto Reviews or BusinessRater combined with a sales process that sets the customer up with an iPad to post their review and describe their car buying experience while the salesperson is gathering documentation and getting the deal set up in the Finance and Insurance Department… This goes a long way towards making better use of the customer’s time after a deal is closed and before F&I is ready for the salesperson to bring the customer into their office. In the service customer lounge, I recommend a PC powered kiosk with signage that encourages customers to rate their experience with the service department while they are waiting for their car to be completed, or brought around after the cashier is done with them… Obviously, the cashiers and service advisors must be trained to encourage customers to post their reviews, or even show them how. When the dealer is using Presto Reviews or BusinessRater, the whole process is not only much easier than the other non-business targeted review sites, but the dealer has the ability to include survey questions which can become a VERY valuable database of information about the actual customers who spend money at your actual dealership. Plus, when their is an issue, management gets to find out about it before the customer leaves the dealership, when it is much easier to resolve… Everybody wins! We are putting this system into Ken Grody Ford‘s two locations in Buena Park, CA and Carlsbad, CA starting tomorrow!
via 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.