“Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow them as you would a guide to hidden treasure.”The Buddha
Customer feedback is the automotive dealer’s best friend. Even bad feedback. Especially bad feedback.
Automotive dealers too often live in fear and trembling of receiving a bad review or getting trolled on Twitter. You shouldn’t. Negative feedback is inevitable at a time when customers have more ways to talk about you online, ranging from Google to TikTok to digital marketplaces.
When you get a negative review, realize that you’re not alone. But you do need to pay attention to all sources of feedback, both negative and positive. According to Reputation research, 85% of car shoppers believe reviews are important. Customer feedback drives customer acquisition, loyalty and revenue in automotive from the sales floor to the service lane. If reviews are important to your customers, they should be important to you.
Negative feedback in particular creates opportunities to develop a loyal customer base. Here are three ways negative feedback can help a dealer:
1. Providing an Early Distant Warning
A negative review or social media post can give you valuable feedback about a problem before it escalates and sabotages your customer experience. Social media can be especially useful because of its immediacy. On TikTok alone, #CarReview has accumulated more than 1 billion views (and counting) as TikTokers share their experiences with the cars they’ve bought. #Ford and #Tesla have racked up about 33 billion views between them. You can be sure that amid this vast sea of feedback, someone is trashing a car they bought, and it might be one they purchased at your dealership.
Customers leave real-time warning signals in many other ways, too, such as online chat. It’s important that your dealership makes sure it’s easy for customers to share feedback on your socials (how easy are they to find?) and to chat with you (have you enabled tools such as chat on your Google Business Profiles)? Then put social listening tools to work in order to monitor what’s being said about you.
That way, you catch problems as they happen instead of long after the fact when you survey your customers.
2. Scaling Your Lessons Learned
Negative feedback also makes it possible for a dealership to apply lessons learned for multiple locations if you have the right tools in place. It’s quite possible that a problem with one rooftop is happening at another — say it’s getting difficult to get an appointment for service or customers are complaining about surprise fees at one location. Smart dealers take that feedback and examine whether there’s a pattern forming at other locations. Is there an inefficiency in the way work is done in the service lane? What can all locations do to improve price transparency?
To scale those lessons learned, dealerships should consolidate feedback data into a single view to make it easier to find valuable insights everywhere your customers are talking, from surveys to reviews and social messaging. Invest in a single automated platform to collect, house and report public and private data to have a complete picture of customer feedback. Funnel those insights to all customer-facing employees so that improvements can be made quickly.
3. Giving You a Chance to Shine by Responding
A car dealer can turn a negative review into a positive outcome by responding to the reviewer in a timely and professional manner. This shows a commitment to customers — not only to the reviewer but to everyone else who sees your response. Let’s say a customer complains about an unprofessional salesperson or slowness in the service lane. The manager can make things right by taking accountability for the problem and offering to make things right, perhaps by assigning the customer to another salesperson or offering a discount for the next visit to the service lane.
The keys to turning a negative into a positive are to respond to reviews in a timely manner, be professional and empathetic in your response, and do what you say you are going to do to help make things right.
Establish a Feedback Loop
When dealerships encourage reviews, respond to them and learn from them — both the negative and positive — they build a continuous feedback loop that encompasses everything from surveys to reviews. Doing all this builds trust — an invaluable word-of-mouth you can use to earn your next customer and retain more of the ones you have.