Dealer Insights - May June 2014 - A badge of honor - Monitor online sites to defend your dealership’s reputation

April 18, 2014

Q: What’s worse than having a potential customer come to your store and ask if the terrible reports they’ve read online about your business are true?

A: The potential customer who reads the reports and never comes into your store at all.

In today’s market, it’s vital that you learn about any negative comments made about your dealership as soon as they’ve been made. And it’s just as important to have a plan in place to address the “bad press.”

Listening to your neighbors

Specialized rating and review sites, such as DealerRater and Car Dealer Check, and general ones, such as Google, Yahoo!, Angie’s List, Citysearch and Local, are among the newest recommendation-giving neighbors 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. For example, this is what car shoppers read about one dealership on a review site:

This dealership is dishonest and unethical. I was overcharged and cheated. I paid for an item I didn’t receive. I was grossly overcharged for the license and title in transferring the vehicle to another state. They ignore phone calls. I was pressed to accept an extended warranty I did not need. The salesman is incompetent and dishonest. The management of this dealership is doing nothing to rectify this situation, and doesn’t care that I have two witnesses as to what had been promised to me. Beware. You have been warned. They will eat you alive with no regrets.

As bad as the review itself, the dealership received only a one-star rating overall. Why? Because this was the only review about the business on the site — and there’s no way to know if the complaint was justified!

Forming a strong defense

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

First, establish a websites review team and appoint someone Internet- and social-media-savvy to lead it. The team’s first priority should be finding out when bad reviews appear. Some sites notify you when your business’s name is used in a review. A “Google Alert,” for example, will inform you when your dealership is mentioned not only in a review, but also on a blog or in an online article.

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. Of course, bear in mind that many negative reviews come from “Internet trolls,” who are seeking only attention for themselves and bemusement at a business owner’s frustrated attempts to resolve an imaginary wrong.

Also remember 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 whether it’s beneficial for potential customers to see how you responded to the situation.

True or untrue

Criticism made about dealerships and other businesses online is often exaggerated or even completely untrue. But your potential customer has no way of knowing that, unless you defend yourself against the allegations. Use your business smarts and show your “better self” online.

Dealer Insights - May/June 2014

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