Dealer Insights - January/February 2012 - How to Manage Your Online Reputation: New Media Demand Fast Responses to Critics

Car shoppers today can find valuable information on your store through a quick Internet search. That’s the good news. But they also can find harsh — sometimes devastating — words from disgruntled customers who legitimately or not have a bone to pick. 

Savvy dealers are proactive about doing what they can to help make sure that what potential customers see about their dealerships online is favorable.

Online word-of-mouth 

Specialized rating and review sites, such as Edmunds, DealerRater and Car Dealer Check, and general ones, such as Google, Yahoo!, Angie’s List, Citysearch and Local, are the new recommendation-giving neighbor next door. Potential customers’ visits to any of these sites can quickly include or exclude you as a possible place to buy their next vehicle.

This is what car shoppers recently could read about one dealership on a review site:
“The salesman/owner was very deceiving. He led me to believe that I was purchasing a car from him with a seven-month warranty. But upon signing the paper work he said it was with another company, and it was just for the engine and transmission. Uh hello, [the factory] gives you 100,000 mile engine and transmission warranty so he really gave me nothing.” 

Worse than the bad review itself, the dealership received a one-star rating, because this was the only review about the business on the site. And there’s no way to know if the complaint was justified!

Proactive measures 

There are reviews out there more scathing than the example above, and one of them could be about your dealership. So, what can you do to minimize negative repercussions?

First, you need to find out that a bad review exists. Some sites let you arrange for notification if your business’s name is used in a review. A “Google alert,” for example, will inform you when your dealership’s name is mentioned in a review, blog or online article.

Your response 

Once you’ve spotted a bad review, the proper response is critical. Although it’s ideal to respond to an angry customer immediately, take a break from the situation if you feel the criticism is unfounded and you find yourself steaming.

When you’ve cooled off, contact the customer and keep your response simple. Consider just thanking the customer for the feedback and choosing your dealership. Trying to defend your dealership’s actions may only fuel the person’s anger — people who post online are typically vocal and may well strike back.

If a customer posts a negative review and it turns out to be true, fess up. Have the employee who met with the customer respond directly, admit the mistake and right the wrong.

Keep in mind that most sites give you the choice of e-mailing the customer directly or posting your response for all to see. To decide, ask yourself if it’s beneficial to your dealership for potential customers to see how you responded to the situation.

 “A” is for effort 

Whatever way you choose to combat negative reviews, you probably won’t be able to reverse the negative remarks of every customer. But use the tools available to give it your best shot.

Sidebar: Outside help 

Some dealerships turn to a professional service to help them manage their online reputation. Here are a few:

  • @utoRevenue offers tracking services and will capture positive responses from customers at “key points in the retention cycle” and get them online.
  • eXtéresAUTO helps clients track and negate bad reviews by quickly e-mailing the unhappy customer and trying to rectify the matter.
  • Presto Reviews helps customers build their own review sites and post both positive and negative reviews — readers get to see how your dealership works to turn things around.

If you do use a professional service, be sure to find out exactly what it will do for you. And, because your reputation can be damaged in a New York minute, be sure to find out how quickly you’ll have a chance to turn a bad review around.

Dealer Insights – January/February 2012 

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