|by Ryan Kenny, Automotive Reputation Management Specialist|
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.
“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.
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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Learn more reputation management myths and insights, as well as some compelling data on the proven impact of reviews in the car-buying process.
|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 email@example.com..|
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.
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:
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:
Car Shoppers Head to Review Sites for Research Before Selecting a Dealership
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)
Take a look at http://LouFuszReviews.com and http://FeldmannReviews.com and http://www.HerbChambersReviews.com for examples of the dealer group splash page I like to set up for inclusion as invitation and links in automated emails sent to both sales and service customers, as well as during phone calls when customers are not physically present at the dealership… Here is a couple of examples showing the “choices” dealers should offer customers as to where they feel comfortable posting a review that I referenced: http://FeldmannNissanReviews.com and http://loufuszreviews.com/loufuszfordreviews.html
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!
Richard Bustillo’s perspective on managing customer reviews from a social media based reputation management perspective is refreshing because of his focus on the customer and achieving genuine satisfaction… Using dealership reviews and ratings as a means of identifying an opportunity to resolve a customer’s issue, thus creating a raving fan. Use the link provided to watch this “Automotive Management Minute” video with Richard Bustillo and leave a comment for Richard on the ADM page where this video is posted…
The implementation of “Review Filters” is inevitable by all major review publishers, including Google Places… During a phone call I was on with a Google employee, he made it very clear that Google is indeed looking at a variety of algorithmic approaches to preventing the display of fake reviews and reviews whose collection tactics do not meet with what Google considers sound business practices. Alternately, the success of Yelp both as a review site and a community has been considerably assisted by their complex filtering algorithms. As the business of Gonsumer Generated Content (CGC) continues to evolve, there will be many variations on the automated filtering of reviews. Some will be as simplistic as DealerRater’s blocking of dealership IP sourced review postings, and others will be far more complex, such as Yelp’s sophisticated review rating algorithms and review poster scoring models. Ultimately, I believe that a broad based review posting strategy, including an in-dealership review collection strategy using a portal OWNED by the dealership, such as BusinessRater.com or PrestoReviews.com along with an off-site review collection strategy powered by a site such as LouFuszReviews.com will be the optimized approach.
Use the link provided to read Brian Pasch’s article and download the Research Report in PDF file format…
David Johnson’s video presents several great recommendations on how to turn social media heat into positive customer engagement… Something that many GM’s and GSM’s do on a daily basis in the offline world!
Welcome to Automotive Reputation Management for Car Dealers on WordPress.com. This blog is for your benefit in understanding the strategies and tactics that create an effective Reputation Management program for car dealers.
Here are my Top Ten favorite dealership review and rating sites listed in order of what I personally consider to be their desirability to have positive dealer reviews on them… In other words, if I had 100 positive reviews for my dealership and wanted to have ten of them posted to ten dealership review and rating sites, these are the ten sites i would choose:
The Video clip below was produced by PrestoReviews and is a great tool to use in meetings at your dealership for ensuring that people in your dealership’s management and leadership team understand how important having a Reputation Management Strategy is for every car dealership…
The following video was created and published by Checkered Flag Automotive as a means of driving additional reviews and ratings from their customers… I included this as a “Best in Class” example of a dealership encouraging their customers to post reviews about their experience at the dealership in the physical world, to the top review and rating sites in the online world:
Of the Ten Dealership Review and Rating sites I have listed, the only provider that allows dealership reviews to be executed by consumers while they are at the dealership (that I am aware of) is Presto Reviews. Scott Falcone and his team at PrestoReviews.com have built their entire model around dealers encouraging customers to post reviews while at the dealership and providing them with work stations to do so… Scott and his team at Presto Reviews encourages dealers to provide comfortable and quiet places with online access to sales customers while they are waiting to meet with a Finance Manager or complete the Finance and Insurance documentation, so they can post a review and rate their experience buying their new or used car that day… While it is still fresh in their minds, and while the dealership can still have an opportunity to correct any deficiencies reported. Presto reviews also encourages dealers to provide kiosks or other means for service customers to post online reviews on the dealership’s Presto Reviews site while at the dealership getting their car serviced.
One of the reasons I like the Presto Reviews model is that it fairly assures dealers that all reviews posted, moderated by the dealer’s Social Media Marketing Manager or Service Provider (if that service provider is worth anything at all), are from actual customers of the dealership and not nefarious individuals seeking to tarnish a dealership’s reputation for reasons outside of actually being one of their customers.
The other nine sites that I have listed in the beginning of this article each forbid reviews from being posted at the place of business. This is done to protect the integrity of the reviews from dealers who might seek to “stuff the ballot box” so to speak, and helps ensure that anyone with an axe to grind at that dealership can post a negative review without necessarily revealing their identity to the dealership.
Kudos to DealerRater.com for creating a validation process which allows DealerRater.com Certified Dealers to contact DealerRater users who have posted a negative review prior to that negative review being publicly visible. This allows each dealer to offer a resolution to each customer’s concern… And, if the customer is actually a bogus post, who does not come back to DealerRater.com to review the dealer’s offer within 5 working days, the dealer can request that DealerRater.com remove the negative review based on its high likelihood of being nefarious and posted by somebody other than an actual dealership customer.
Yelp goes so far as to have an Official Policy that strongly forbids incentives for customer reviews and highly recommends that dealers DO NOT ask customers to post reviews. In addition, Yelp’s technology is designed to recognize when a consumer is using a mobile device, and when that customer posts a review on their mobile device (at the dealership), Yelp holds the review as a “Draft” and will not let that review go live until the customer has reviewed, edited and resubmitted their review from a PC located at work or home… Of course, all of these measures make positive reviews for dealers on Yelp all the more attractive and valuable!
Tim lists the following Dealer Review and Rating sites as his most useful:
Google Local Business Listings
Other reviews sites Tim is aware of that show up in search for a dealership by name are: