Online ratings are killing some dealerships. This fact is what got me into Social Media for dealers in the first place. 2 years ago I sat down on my couch one night and conducted a short market study. I picked a high-line brand that I know well and looked up all their 50 California dealers on Yelp. I nearly fell off the couch. All but 4 stores had horrible reviews. Some of these stores were run by great operators, people who were my friends, so I decided that night to do something about it.
Online ratings sites are simply CSI with a twist. While CSI surveys are contained information between the dealer and the manufacturer, online ratings sites show those opinions for all to see and they’re amplified by Social Networks. The good news is there’s a strategy to manage it all.
The key to positive online ratings starts with your staff. Just like CSI, you must have employee buy-in to achieve your goal. That goal is to create, improve and maintain positive reviews but you won’t get there without grassroots participation from everyone in the store. Here are 10 steps to a stellar online reputation:
1. Secure a designated ‘go-to’ person, ideally your Customer Relations Manager, who’ll take ownership of the implementation plan and monitor progress.
2. Signage creates awareness for you, your staff and your customers. Display “Love Us on Yelp!” signs throughout the store: F&I, Sales Offices, All Entry Doors, Waiting Room, Service Advisor offices, Parts Dept, Detail Dept and the Accounting Office. (To simplify, I’m using Yelp as an example here but you can apply this to other platforms like Google My Business).
3. Train front-line personnel on how to ask for a review from customers – Salespeople, Cashier, Service Advisors, F&I Mgrs. There are 2 parts to this step:
A. “Raving Fans” are those customers who LOVE their Advisor and/or Salesperson and everyone has them. These types of customers are always happy to return a favor to their favorite “go-to” guy or gal. Have each employee contact their “Raving Fans” to remind them you’re on Yelp. It’s important that you only remind them about your online ratings (just like CSI) and you’d “love it if they would write a quick review.” Yelp’s policies are strict on solicitation so don’t ask them to say something positive, just give their authentic opinion.
B. Create a mindset so the front-line staff get in the habit of mentioning Yelp as the customer is finishing his/her transaction…in person or on the phone. They can use these starter scripts:
• How was your experience with us today? We’d love to see your comments on our Yelp page.
• Have you heard of Yelp? It’s a place where customers go to share a review about our store. Would you be open to sharing your experience there?
• Did we take care of everything for you today? If you have a moment, we’d love to have you share your comments on our Yelp page.
• How do you like your new car? What’s the best thing about it? Would you consider sharing that on our Yelp page?
• Wow, thanks for being such a loyal long-time customer. We have a Yelp page where our loyal customers go to post reviews about us. We’d love to have you be part of our community. I can email you the link if that would be easier. Would that be ok?
4. Many of your employees are your customers. They always give high marks when they’re surveyed, right? Add memos to paychecks asking them to post a review but ONLY if they’ve been a customer of the store. I’ve seen a lot of stores with dubious reviews that Social users can spot from a mile away. Be authentic and transparent.
5. Integrate managers and staff meetings with recaps of each week’s reviews and invite suggestions on how to enhance the objective of getting more reviews. Yelp rules state that you can’t give incentives to customers so be careful to adhere to that policy.
6. Recognize staff members who get 5-star reviews. Create a “5-star” review board in the customer waiting area where the employee’s name is posted.
7. Create awareness with customers by adding reminders “Love Us on Yelp” on your website, Blog, other advertising, repair orders and counter tickets.
8. Hold a monthly gift card or cash drawing for the whole store. Have the drawing open to all employees so you’ve got everyone motivated to achieve the same goal and excited to win. If the store gets 10 reviews with 4 or 5 stars in one month (or 8? Or more than 10?) you’ll draw a name and that person wins the gift card.
9. Enlist the Parts Dept to ask for reviews from their Wholesale Parts customers. Repair and body shops are your customers too. They typically have a very good relationship with your Parts Dept so they would write great reviews. The Parts Manager could also start his own recognition program with his staff.
10. Negative reviews are actually positive. They are opportunities to show the Social Network how you handle customer issues. Just as reviews are broadcast to all, so will be your response. It’s a chance to turn that person into a “Customer for Life“. As we all know, sometimes you just can’t please the person but your defined strategy for garnering consistent reviews will overcome the few negatives and they won’t matter in the overall scheme of things.
What are your online ratings saying about your store?