What’s Your Negative Review Response Strategy?


By Heather MacKinnon

No dealership wants to hear that they have unhappy customers. In most circumstances, unhappy customers are motivated to share their unsatisfactory experience with others because they feel their situation was either not resolved at the dealership or the problem was not escalated to the highest-level decision maker.

Although negative customer feedback is easily shared across the Web on various third-party review sites, dealerships can still manage their online reputation and control the outcome of the situation. If negative reviews are handled well, customers will see how proactively the dealership works to handle situations and will think better of the dealership as a result. The following suggestions will help your dealership create a comprehensive Negative Review Response Strategy.

• Don’t Sit on Negative Reviews
Many dealers make the mistake of sitting on negative reviews. A dealer needs to take immediate action to address an unfavorable review. Dealers should only allow enough time to respond with a cool head and calm demeanor.

• Know When to Act on Dated Reviews
When a dealer comes across a dated negative review, a typical rule of thumb is to respond publically if that review posted within the last 24 months. If the dealership has a review that is older than 24 months, a response is not required. Instead, the dealer should look to “bury” reviews that are 2+ years old by insulating themselves with more positive reviews.

• Formulate a Response Plan
Dealers need to have a definitive response plan when responding to unsatisfactory reviews. An unprofessional response can do more harm to the relationship and overall dealer reputation. Remember that “making something right” with a customer can have more impact than the original negative review. ♦ Be sure to respond directly to the issue discussed in the review. ♦ Be sure to show empathy and not get defensive in your response.  ♦ Don’t make the mistake of getting locked into a he-said, she-said situation. ♦ And, always take the high-road when dealing with a negative review.

• Be Sure to Follow-up
Don’t make the mistake of not following up after you are able to turn things around with a customer. A successful follow-up is simple but effective: (1) Ask the customer to update his or her review, and then, (2) publicly respond thanking the customer for bringing the matter to their attention and working with your dealership to resolve the issue.

We all strive to provide the best customer service. On days when your dealership has not met its service goals and a customer’s unsatisfactory experience is shared on a third-party review site, the outcome can be successfully controlled. With a well-planned Negative Review Response Strategy the unhappy customer can be turned around while preserving your dealership’s positive online reputation.

Heather MacKinnon is Vice President of Sales at DealerRater and can be reached at heather@dealerrater.com.