There are endless social media and third-party review sites on which car buyers can post both negative and positive feedback about their dealership experience. Many dealers have responded by instructing their sales teams to encourage satisfied customers to submit reviews on sites such as DealerRater.com. Any kind of feedback is helpful, and a high score on review sites can be good for business. Unfortunately, this is not always an effective strategy.
The value of a strong presence on third-party sites is diminished by the fact that many of them leave business owners with little or no opportunity to respond to comments. In many cases, dealers would benefit from continuing the conversation with unsatisfied customers before, during or after a sale is made or service is performed.
With that in mind, let’s look at three platforms on which dealers can see a return on their investment of time and energy in promoting and maintaining a positive online profile.
When customers write vehicle reviews, they create content that helps drive search returns. The more reviews you collect, the greater chance your website has to become a point of reference for shoppers at the early stages of the buying process.
When it comes to your own website, I suggest you adopt this mantra: Be the change, don’t wait for it.
We should be pushing the envelope for what we as an industry are asking our website providers to do for us. You know that SEO and content development are key elements to your online marketing strategy, but you may not realize how much of that work your customers can do for you.
Their testimonials and vehicle reviews can improve your search returns and encourage potential new customers to take a longer look at your offerings.
And the value is not limited to helping make a positive impression on potential customers. By reviewing their new vehicle as well as their dealership experience, customers add SEO stock and, ultimately, establish your site as a point of reference for product information. You can become a resource to customers who are still at the top of the sales funnel. Forward-thinking dealers do it every day.
More than two-thirds of Internet searches are performed on Google, and Google Reviews are instantly visible to potential customers. Better yet, they offer business owners the opportunity to respond.
This is not a new concept, and it’s not limited to the automotive space. But a vehicle is a big investment, and it typically involves a lengthy interaction with multiple staff members. If the culmination of that experience is a sale — or even a friendly parting — there is no reason not to ask for a review. It should be a part of your follow-up, and like any other part of your sales process, that step must be taken every time, with every customer, to ensure success.
Google is the reigning king of online search, and Google Reviews are built into the platform. More than two-thirds of all Internet searches are initiated on Google, so keeping an eye on these reviews is of singular importance. The good news is that, in online marketing terms, you will own a lot of real estate.
Your goal here is simple: Provide as much information as possible to each customer on the platform that will take them furthest. Google yourself and count the number of reviews your dealership has accumulated. What is your star rating? How many positive reviews would it take to move the needle?
The best practice here is to always respond to a review — and that goes for any social platform, not just Google. Often we overlook the fact that a customer had something nice to say, but both positive and negative reviews warrant a response. It is a quick way to show every customer that they matter. Every review is an opportunity to build a relationship.
Unlike many third-party review sites, verified business owners can respond to reviews posted on Google, which is another compelling reason to make it one of the platforms on which you should focus your efforts. Just remember that your comments will be just as visible as theirs. See the sidebar for basic rules that will help guide your responses.
Tempting though it may be to delete negative comments posted on your dealership’s Facebook page, the author advises dealers to craft appropriate responses and allow satisfied customers to come to the store’s defense.
I recently met with a dealer who was hoping to improve his Facebook page. He mentioned that an unhappy customer would not stop posting negative comments. We investigated, and it soon became apparent that the dealer was unwittingly encouraging this behavior. How? Every time the customer posted a comment, someone at the dealership deleted it. There is no more effective way to guarantee a second negative comment than deleting the first.
I realize it is sometimes difficult to resist, especially when you feel a comment is unfounded. It can be hard enough to deal with a negative situation when the other party is typing away and displaying their dissatisfaction for all to read. But this is your opportunity to show both current and potential customers that your business takes complaints seriously. You must be willing to engage in a real conversation when something goes wrong — even if you don’t think it did. And more often than not, you will find that customers who had a great experience will come to your defense, helping to strengthen your relationship with them and showing potential future customers that yours is a company worth doing business with.
The ability to engage customers is only one of the many marketing tools that Facebook provides to business owners. After a customer or potential customer interacts with your page, you can increase your page reach. Their friends are exposed to your content, whether or not they post anything. If you are running any type of retargeting campaign, if they click through to your site, you can retarget customers while they’re still on Facebook and as they continue to explore the Web.
The Internet is filled with opportunities for customers to write reviews of your dealership, whether positive or negative. To cultivate an active social media profile, you or a dedicated team member should check review sites on a weekly basis. This is an easy way to ensure you are engaging with every client who took the time to provide feedback. With the proper strategy in place, you will help build relationships, foster positive “buzz” and help defray negative situations before they get out of control.
5 Rules for Responding to Negative Reviews
- Keep your responses simple.
- Always thank each reviewer for being a customer and for their feedback.
- Express empathy for those who have experienced problems.
- If neither you nor your staff did anything wrong, don’t apologize.
- Provide a private channel to continue the conversation offline and, hopefully, reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Samantha Cunningham is vice president of account services for Potratz Advertising, where she uses data generated by a wide range of online marketing campaigns to develop new strategies for dealers. SCunningham@AutoDealerMonthly