I recently met with an independent used car dealership who was looking to secure their online reputation. After being in the car business my whole life, it’s safe to say my BS-detector is in top working order. When I drove on the lot, it was chiming at def-con 5. I got upped, which was great, but while I was waiting for my appointment, I was able to observe their tactics at selling cars and that told me all I needed to know. It was like when people are speaking a foreign language in front of you and you speak that language but they don’t know it.
The reason I do what I do is to support dealership profitability. However, I draw the line at unethical tactics, lying and full-blown deception, especially when it’s done in the name of ‘selling’. The only way to make true profit is to treat customers respectfully, earn their business and ask for referrals. In the case of this operation, they’re perpetuating the negative stereotype and hurting the dealer body that’s worked hard to build trust.
With online reputations and Social Media, you just can’t fake it. This dealer’s answer to controlling his reputation and earning high online ratings was to hire someone to ‘clean up’ the reviews without changing how he treats his customers. Social Media management is not like plastic surgery. You can’t just nip-here and tuck-there and expect your ratings to climb if you’re not willing to be engaged and receptive to your customer.
Posting ‘fake’ reviews to boost your reputation is definitely a bad strategy. It’s pretty easy for potential customers to detect a fake review and it destroys your store’s credibility. I quickly looked up this dealer’s scores. All 5-star reviews posted during the same two-day period and sounded amazingly similar. In between them were 1-star reviews that sounded much more authentic. As a potential buyer, what’s the likelihood that I’ll buy from them?
The relationship with the customer is not adversarial. Dissatisfied customers are unavoidable given the nature of the business of cars. Good operators handle these situations and make them right. They know that a negative review can be a positive experience. They honor the relationship with their customer and do what it takes to make them happy. When a dealership acts quickly to resolve an issue, potential buyers see that online and they know that dealership cares about its customers.
There’s too many good dealers out there doing a great job to let the ‘fakers’ ruin it. The operators that have no intention of changing their M.O. of deceit can’t survive in today’s climate. You can’t fake an online reputation. Social Media is all about finding you, liking you, trusting you, buying from you and referring you. It’s not a new concept, it’s just a new medium. Faking it is a fail.