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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|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)