One of the key success factors for an auto dealership’s online reputation is customer satisfaction. How many times have you visited a store, restaurant, maybe even a car dealership, based off a friend’s personal recommendation? A reliable suggestion or warning will weigh heavily on your decision when making a purchase. Satisfied customers are key to the success of any business, but an unsatisfied customer could single-handedly break it.

Online reviews work in a similar way.  According to Bright Local, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. What your customers are saying about you could make or break you. The difference between making the sale or losing out to the competition could depend on how you manage your online reputation.

Give Your Dealership an Online Presence

There are hundreds of sites that offer to host your dealership’s online reviews, but which ones should your car dealership be targeting? At the very least, you should focus on the big three: Google, Facebook, and Yelp.

That being said, you should also keep in mind the myriad of industry-specific sites that your customers and potential customers are visiting, including:

• – has an estimated 15.5 million unique site visitors each month.
• – Half a million visitors are exposed to review content each month.
• – this site provides ratings for individual salespeople and also has 14 million visitors each month

To successfully manage your dealership’s online reputation, you need to keep a watchful eye on each of these review sites. Be sure that you are actively monitoring your accounts and that you are responding to reviews appropriately.

Be Transparent in Communication & Response to Negative Reviews

What does “transparency” mean? Social Media Today defines it as being authentic and honest. Transparency shows your customers that you’re brave enough to welcome criticism and willing to reply and treat comments with polite professionalism.

According to Hootsuite, with the exception of a complete absence of reviews, there is nothing worse for your business’s social proof than negative reviews left without a response. Not only does this leave the audience without your perspective on the issue, it can also come off as lack of caring about what your customers think about your product or service.

Unless you are the world’s most perfect business, you are likely going to get a poor review or two. If you manage your reviews, you will be aware of these reviews and it is important that you respond to them. We have written more extensively on this topic in a previous post.

As a general rule of thumb, you should follow these 4 steps when responding to a negative review:

  1. Remain calm and collected, don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
  2. Apologize (“We’re sorry to hear…”)
  3. Offer a solution to their problem (We’d like to do all we can to fix/change that…”)
  4. Ask to continue the conversation privately (“Please contact our Customer Service manager at this number…”)

Leaving polite and helpful responses to negative reviews can ensure a positive online reputation.Also, always remember to offer a clear path to resolution.

Requesting Reviews from Customers

Let’s get this out of the way right now: you don’t want to manipulate your customers into leaving positive reviews. Not only is this unethical, but it can backfire on you as far as your online reputation goes. The bottom line is that positive reviews should only come naturally from the excellent car buying experience you provide.

So how can you generate positive reviews without manipulating the system? Well, you don’t have to leave everything to chance. An online reputation management tool, like Podium, allows you to automatically request each of your customers to leave reviews. You can send them directly to a review site right after they’ve completed their car purchase and while the experience is fresh in their mind.

The fact is, there could be a lot of customers who’ve had wonderful experiences buying a car at your dealership, and if they’d only been nudged toward a review site, they might have left a glowing review. There will be people who leave negative reviews, but as long as you have a proactive system in place to monitor and respond to negative reviews (as we discussed earlier in this article), you’ll still be able to nurture a good online reputation.

But requesting reviews from ALL your customers has even more benefits. The real power of an online reputation management tool means you can:

  • Monitor reviews in real-time
  • Direct customers to specific review sites
  • Track customer reviews to the specific sales representative who helped them
  • Discover which employees generate the most reviews and which employees generate the best reviews
  • Make improvements to your car dealership based on the insights you gain from your reviews

With access to this kind of information about your auto dealership, you can make adjustments that will improve your customer service and sales process, ultimately leading to a better buying experience overall and higher profits. And isn’t that the ultimate goal, anyway?

Gather More Reviews

Now that we’ve discussed the kind of presence you should have online, it is important to know why you should strive to obtain online reviews on an ongoing basis. The number of reviews plays a very important role in your customer’s decision-making process, in fact, it is second only to the overall star rating. In addition, the recency of your reviews plays a determining factor in how often and where your business’ reviews may be seen.

Getting online reviews for your business is easier than you think, but you probably won’t get them if you aren’t building “the ask” into the sales process. There are a number of different methods for asking for a review, but politely asking for a review via text message by far has the highest response rate. Text messages have a 99% open rate, much higher than the 23% open rate of email.
You should also make sure you build “the ask” into the right time of your customers’ visit. You should aim to send invites at the most convenient time for the customer while they are still in your dealership. If they have some down time waiting on paperwork or credit approval, they are more likely to leave you a review because you are top-of-mind. Quick tip: don’t batch emails to send out later.

Find the Right Management Tool for You

Request a demo to see how Podium’s efficient, mobile process can help your business collect 15x more reviews than traditional platforms. This will, in turn, improve local SEO and ultimately boost revenues.

Max Steckler
Max Steckler Head of Strategic Automotive Partnerships

Max Steckler, is an auto professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects auto dealerships and businesses with their customers.

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