Car Dealer Reviews

Car Dealer Reviews: Why Auto Dealers Should Embrace Online Reviews

As you already know, today’s car buyer is more informed than ever, utilizing the internet, social media, and apps to research and, ultimately, make decisions on vehicle purchases.

And a big part of this researching and decision-making process is reading car dealer reviews. The prevalence of blogs and social media sites has unleashed a whole new forum where people are more than happy to voice their opinions and, more often than not, their complaints and frustrations.

Getting a negative review about your dealership or service department is bad enough, but that annoyance is exacerbated when it’s clear that the person is just nitpicking and complaining for complaining’s sake, or worse, exaggerating a complaint just to try and get some free stuff.

But, as we all know, the customer is always right, and no matter how off-base or unreasonable a complaint may be, there’s probably some truth behind it somewhere. The key is to embrace online reviews —both good and bad —and take advantage of them.

A good review is free (and priceless) advertising, and a bad review is the perfect opportunity to show that you care and are willing to go the extra mile to make things right.

The Magnification of the Unhappy Customer

To put it bluntly, before the internet and social media became ingrained in our daily lives, if a customer was unhappy, the only people who knew about it were that customer and the people he complained to. The dealership would offer whatever make-good it felt was appropriate, and the customer was sent on his way. And that was that.

Now when a customer complains, the whole world can hear about it. Not only that, an unhappy customer will often leave a dealership without saying a word, and then go online to voice their displeasures. In these cases, you have to acknowledge and embrace the online review, or you won’t even get a chance to offer a make-good or even tell your side of the story.

Customers are more informed than ever. In the old days, a car buyer would go to a dealership and “kick the tires” to learn more about their next potential purchase. Now, the customer comes in often knowing more about the year, make, model, and features of the vehicle that they’re interested in buying than some of the salespeople do! This is not a knock on salespeople —it’s just that a salesperson has to know about a hundred cars, while the person wanting to buy a car has put all his focus and research into that one car he’s interested in.

It all goes back to customer satisfaction and doing all you can to garner favorable customer reviews. Everyone in your dealership is being watched, judged, and rated, and even the littlest slip-up or oversight can become magnified once it hits an online chat room or social media site.

How to Get Good Online Reviews

Provide amazing products and services! That is, of course, an oversimplification, but it does remain true. But besides providing the great vehicles, support, and service, dealerships must also follow up and ensure that their customers are happy every step of the way.

Back in the day, dealerships would just rely on the manufacturers’ customer surveys, and salespeople would tell people things like, “You’re going to receive a survey from General Motors and it’s really important to me that you rate us highly because it affects me as a salesperson. So, if there’s anything that we’ve missed, I’d like to get my manager involved so we can address it now.” Now, with social media and online reviews, salespeople are saying, “You may be contacted by General Motors, however, it’s more important that you report your good reviews to your friends and family.” To boil it down, the question is no longer, “Are you satisifed?” —it’s “Based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, how likely are you to refer us to a friend or colleague?

Then, you’ve got to follow up. Whether the reviews are positive or negative, you’ve got to address them. Ask people what you did right and what you need work on. And most importantly, learn from these experiences and make changes. Reach out to customers and talk to them. Vet out why they had the experience they had, good or bad. Be consistent about it and have a process in place. Don’t just tell your staff to follow up with customers, have a template and process in place so they know when to do it, how to do it, how to record the responses, and what to do next.

Your service department needs to do this as well. Every time a repair order is generated, you should be sending that customer an email or a text message asking for their feedback. And ask that question, “Based on your experience today, how likely are you to refer a friend or colleague?” If the response is positive, find out what you did that made the customers so happy. If the response is negative, keep asking those questions —”What expectations didn’t we meet?” and “What can we do to improve?”

After you follow up with an unhappy customer and get to the root of their issues, ask for a second chance. Give the customer a complimentary oil change or a vehicle wash and vacuum, or whatever you can to show that you understand and appreciate them. Be empathetic, apologize and show that you truly care.

And remember, you can’t please everyone. No matter what you do, there will always be customers that will never be satisfied. But if you do all you can to understand your customers and truly treat them like a part of your family, the good reviews —and repeat visits —will come.