According to recent data, 88% of consumers say online reviews play a part in deciding which local businesses to choose and visit. And 83% of consumers say that customer reviews must be recent and relevant in order to care about them. So what does this mean for automotive reputation management? And more importantly, what do car dealerships need to do to manage their online reputation in a sustainable way?
Your online reputation is non-negotiable.
If you’re anything like most companies, the reputation you start out with is poor at best—only a few reviews, some of the negative reviews left by the odd unhappy customer. You know you have tons of happy, loyal customers, but how do you get your online reputation to match the customer experience you’re providing?
In this article, we’ll address a few different ways you can tackle your automotive reputation management, so potential customers get the best first impression of your business.
What is online reputation management for car dealerships?
Your online reputation is basically your dealership at a glance. When your potential customers search for you, what do they see? It usually is a combination of your social media presence, the quality of your website, where you show up in local Google searches, on top of the more direct things like your review quantity and star rating. All of these things are a reflection on the care your dealership takes to provide a great customer experience.
When you’re first starting out, it might look daunting—maybe your social media isn’t very up-to-date, you’ve got a few negative reviews you’re worried about. But a negative review shouldn’t be something to be scared of. If you tackle the problem with a strategy, you’ll have so many positive reviews, your online reputation will be a much more accurate and trustworthy representation of your dealership.
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Your dealership’s online reputation mirrors real life customer experiences.
The first thing you need to do is something you probably already are doing, which is actually providing a great customer experience. If all you earn are negative reviews, that’s a good moment for some self-reflection to figure out how to improve that experience for your customers.
85% of people consider employee attitude and interactions to be the number one reason to leave a negative—or a positive—review. Your online reviews will most often reflect the actual experience customers are having with your staff, not necessarily the services or products you provide. This is true across every industry, not just automotive, but you might be starting at a disadvantage since many people have a less-than-rosy impression of car dealers. In thinking like a customer, you’ll begin to see where your store can improve to make the experience better.
Create an online presence with these automotive listings.
Your online reputation is the impression your online presence gives to potential customers, so you absolutely must make sure you actually have a presence online. In addition to the obvious places, like having a website and getting reviews on Google, you should also be focusing on less obvious ones, like Yelp, Facebook, Edmunds, Dealerrater, Cars.com, and other industry-specific or OEM-specific review sites. Basically, wherever your customers might be looking for a dealership, it’s a good idea to make that place a part of your online reputation strategy.
Every review site is different, but here are some main points to get you started:
- Make sure you have a Google My Business profile and that you’ve claimed your listing.
- Update your Facebook page with current hours and other details that are important to buyers
- Make sure users feel your presence – this means your content is relevant and updated.
- Don’t let your listings feel like a ghost town, because your leads have tons of other options to choose from.
Automotive reputation management = review management
More than just having a presence on these review sites, your automotive online reputation is most directly seen in the quality and quantity of your online reviews. Your local marketing strategy must include a strategy for getting and maintaining frequent, relevant reviews. If you’ve ever asked someone to write a review, you know that’s easier said than done. However, there are some great automotive reputation management resources and tools at your disposal to make the job much easier.
Your potential customer will be looking for a few things when they look for a new dealership.
- They’ll be scanning reviews to find out if your dealership is trustworthy.
- If your staff is friendly.
- If you were able to make customers feel like they got a good deal.
If you are delivering on these expectations, your reviews will begin to reflect reality.
The importance of reviews for car dealerships.
It’s not just about being visible online, although that’s a major benefit to having a robust review presence. It also impacts your bottom line in other ways. It directly impacts foot traffic to your dealership, putting you in contact with more customers not just online but in person.
Online reviews don’t just influence the choice of business either; your online reviews also influence purchase decisions. With as many as 93% of consumers saying that online reviews have helped them with specific purchases, it’s clear that reviews can be a huge conversion tool for your dealership.
Even a negative review can have a positive benefit to your dealership; knowing that a customer has had a negative experience can help you improve your business for the future.
Increasing your positive reviews
How do you turn your customer consensus into accurate and representative reviews? It’s all about quantity. The majority of your customers are happy, but it’s not super convenient for most customers to leave a review. The people who do go out of their way are usually very polarized in their experience.
But people are excited about their new car! This is a big opportunity for your dealership to get more positive reviews. Before customers leave your store, it’s ideal to start the conversation about online reviews. This is your chance to make it easy for them to write a review on any of the major review sites that are important to your dealership.
Services can help you with your automotive reputation management by making this process seamless. Start by texting your customers a review invite link through text. 98% of texts get opened, which means your review requests will get a much higher and faster response rate than other methods.
Responding to your negative reviews
With this strategy to gather more positive reviews, you have much less reason to worry about bad reviews because they no longer make up a significant portion of your overall review landscape. That doesn’t mean your negative reviews don’t matter—but in fact they can be a net positive for your business.
First step in this is acknowledging that you can’t make every customer happy, and not every review will be positive. In fact, having a few negative reviews can tend to legitimize your business for potential customers. Fifty five-star reviews and no negative ones looks like you got fifty friends to game the system for you. A well-rounded amount of reviews will include generally positive reviews, a few bad reviews, and a high overall average star rating.
Your team can use negative reviews as a training opportunity, and a chance to regain that customer’s trust. Responding to both negative (and positive) reviews shows customers (and future customers) that you care about their experience. You can apologize for their negative experience and offer a way to make things right. Being engaged and willing to make things right will do wonders for your online reputation.
A potential customer who sees that you respond to reviews is also more likely to choose your business. Over half of customers say that a business’ response is likely to change their perspective on that business.
Successful automotive reputation management equates to better reviews, satisfied search engines, and often, more customers. It’s critical for your organization to take a proactive approach to your online reviews and control the narrative.
About the Author: This is a guest blog post from Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects auto businesses with their customers.