A positive reputation can be more effective than any salesperson. Today, there are more sites than ever where your reputation is prominently displayed. Google showcases star ratings in search results from other review sites, and online retailers like Overstock will soon enter the automotive market.
A recent study found up to 90 percent of sales and service customers say reputation impacted their decision to choose a dealership, and 72 percent say they would drive up to 60 miles to a dealership with a positive reputation. With reputation being the most important driver of sales, it’s essential to manage it correctly.
While all review sites are important, this study confirms that Google is the one where potential buyers will most likely see you first. Approximately 74 percent of service customers and 79 percent of sales customers use Google as their main search engine, meaning that more people see your reviews there before any other site. Review sites with high volume are now showcased in Google results and are seen by 70 percent of sales customer and 64 percent of service customers, even if the potential buyer doesn’t click through to read the reviews.
Even though Google is a major player in the review game, Yelp and Facebook should remain critical to your strategy. Maps on iPhones showcases Yelp reviews and anytime someone is trying to find you, your star rating will appear underneath the dealership’s name. This is important because even if a potential buyer neglected to research dealership reviews prior to going to your dealership, he or she will still see your Yelp review when entering the address into their iPhone and the Apple maps app. Also, although Facebook is commonly thought of as a social media site, it’s listed as a review site on Google.
Cars by Overstock will soon become a major force in online reputation management. This site has 40 million unique monthly visitors and is the second largest retailer behind Amazon. It is also the only auto shopping site to have a dealer-centric program built by dealers for dealers. With so many review sites to think about, it’s important to have a plan to monitor all review sites, increase positive reviews and respond to all reviews and comments — both positive and negative.
Car-specific sites certainly aren’t the only places consumers go to read reviews. Google+, Yelp and Facebook rank fifth, sixth and seventh behind Cars.com, Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds and Autotrader. To keep a positive online reputation, it’s important to pay attention to all top sites and know where you need reviews compared to your competitors.
Dealership reviews are common on many sites, but a few sites are adding employee reviews so consumers can decide with which employee they’d like to work. For example, DealerRater showcases highly rated employees while Cars.com will soon start showcasing reviews by dealership employees as well.
The case for monitoring is clear, but you also need to manage the review sites. The best way to do this is to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. These responses show your customers that their business is important to you. When responding to negative reviews, respond with empathy and direct the situation offline by including a phone number of a high-level contact at your dealership they can call. Don’t make promises of refunds or restitution online as that creates a culture where customers may feel the only way to get anywhere is by leaving a negative review. Most importantly, don’t get into an argument online with a reviewer. It will make you look defensive and unprofessional. When handled properly, many unhappy customers will end up being fans of your dealership and will update their review to let the public know you addressed their concerns.
When handling negative reviews, it’s also crucial to be aware of the guidelines of the site’s terms and conditions. If the reviewer violated any of the site’s fine print, you can flag that review and have it removed.
Don’t forget to respond to positive reviews as well. How strange would it seem if someone paid you a compliment and you ignored it? That’s what not responding to or commenting on a positive review seems like, so make sure to say “thank you” and acknowledge the positive reviews.
You can also increase the number of reviews you get by asking for immediate feedback from satisfied customers, including via text. Feedback can also be easily copied and added onto a review site. Keep an eye out for your competitor’s reviews as well; comparing your reviews with your three closest competitors can help you stay ahead of the curve and identify the review sites where you may not be performing as well as the competition.
When you’ve leveraged your reputation to be your No. 1 salesperson, happy customers will become your biggest advocates in business, and strategic reputation management can translate into more sales.
Alexi Venneri, co-founder and CEO, Digital Air Strike