The Top 5 Questions on Online Reviews Answered

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By Heather MacKinnon

There’s no deny­ing the grow­ing impor­tance of your dealership’s online rep­u­ta­tion. Accord­ing to Opin­ion Research Corp., 84% of Amer­i­cans report online reviews influ­ence their pur­chas­ing deci­sions. Addi­tion­al­ly, Nielsen’s Glob­al Trust in Adver­tis­ing sur­vey this year reveals that online con­sumer reviews have become the sec­ond most trust­ed form of advertising—right behind #1 which is per­son­al rec­om­men­da­tions. Yet many deal­er­ships still strug­gle with the basics of build­ing, man­ag­ing and lever­ag­ing their online rep­u­ta­tions.

Below are the five ques­tions I am typ­i­cal­ly asked regard­ing online reviews as well as my rec­om­men­da­tions:

1. Which review sites should I focus on?

DO: A sim­ple search for the name of your deal­er­ship, plus the word “reviews.” As Google auto-fills the word “reviews”, it’s like­ly that con­sumers look­ing for infor­ma­tion about your deal­er­ship are going to be direct­ed to your reviews. When the search results appear, write down the names of the two to four review web­sites that appear on page one. Most con­sumers don’t look past page one results, so focus your efforts on these most influ­en­tial web sites.

DON’T: Dilute your rep­u­ta­tion. Spread­ing reviews across too many third-par­ty review sites can neg­a­tive­ly impact a dealer’s rep­u­ta­tion and result in a dilut­ed and incon­sis­tent dis­tri­b­u­tion. Build­ing reviews on review sites that appear fur­ther down in the organ­ic search results (Page 2 and beyond) also height­en the organ­ic place­ment for those sites and raise the vis­i­bil­i­ty for unhap­py cus­tomers to vent in the future.

 2. What’s the best way to ask cus­tomers for reviews?

DO: Ask cus­tomers while in the show­room for a ver­bal com­mit­ment to write a review. Then, send a fol­low up e-mail tem­plate one or two days after their vis­it to remind them. Include links to the review sites you’re focus­ing on. The goal is to make it as easy as pos­si­ble for the cus­tomer to write a review with­out pres­sur­ing them.

DON’T: Ask cus­tomers to write a review while in your deal­er­ship. No oth­er indus­try asks cus­tomers to write reviews while in the estab­lish­ment. If you have a kiosk in your deal­er­ship for the pur­pose of col­lect­ing online reviews, I high­ly rec­om­mend remov­ing it. First, it caus­es con­sumers to ques­tion the cred­i­bil­i­ty of your reviews, and sec­ond, Google is appar­ent­ly enforc­ing their terms of use. We’ve all heard about the deal­er­ships with hun­dreds of reviews that woke up one morn­ing to have few­er than a dozen left. This is because Google is iden­ti­fy­ing mul­ti­ple reviews from one IP address as “spam­my” and remov­ing them. Addi­tion­al­ly, don’t ask your cus­tomers to open a g-mail account just to write a Google review. One-and-done reviews orig­i­nat­ing from a g-mail account are also con­sid­ered “spam­my” and may be removed.

3. What’s the best way to build an online rep­u­ta­tion?

DO: Start by ask­ing your hap­py cus­tomers. There’s noth­ing wrong with insu­lat­ing your­self from neg­a­tive reviews by approach­ing your best cus­tomers first. Once you have 30–40 pos­i­tive reviews, make reviews an inte­gral part of your sales and ser­vice process­es.

DON’T: Try to game the sys­tem. Auto deal­ers strug­gle enough with their rep­u­ta­tions, so when it comes to online reviews, don’t risk your cred­i­bil­i­ty and integri­ty. Most review sites take fraud­u­lent reviews very seri­ous­ly. Fraud exam­ples include: reviews writ­ten in the deal­er­ship, rely­ing on a third-par­ty mar­ket­ing agency to post reviews, or a review post­ed by a car deal­er employ­ee or fam­i­ly mem­ber.

4.  How can I lever­age our online rep­u­ta­tion?

DO: Lever­age your rep­u­ta­tion in three areas: online, in the show­room and over the phone. First, cre­ate employ­ee buy-in with friend­ly com­pe­ti­tion between sales and ser­vice employ­ees. Rec­og­nize top-rat­ed employ­ees each week in sales and/or ser­vice meet­ings. Also, add links to review sites in employ­ees’ e-mail sig­na­tures. Do you have third-par­ty indi­vid­ual staff pro­files on your deal­er­ship web­site? If not, add them and then add links to a review site with the tagline “Read 3rd-par­ty reviews about me!” Men­tion your online reviews to every phone prospect. Addi­tion­al­ly, lever­age them in tra­di­tion­al adver­tis­ing, includ­ing print ads, radio and TV ads.

DON’T: View your online rep­u­ta­tion as some­thing to be han­dled defen­sive­ly. Some deal­ers are over­ly con­cerned about neg­a­tive reviews and don’t want peo­ple to see them, so they miss out on the ben­e­fits of lever­ag­ing their pos­i­tive reviews. An offen­sive approach is best. Cus­tomers expect to see a few neg­a­tive reviews and become sus­pi­cious if there are none. But they also expect to see respons­es to these neg­a­tive reviews by deal­er­ship man­age­ment. Post respons­es to all neg­a­tive reviews, explain­ing the issue and your attempts to resolve it.

5.  What’s the best way to mon­i­tor our online rep­u­ta­tion?

DO: Con­sid­er invest­ing in a soft­ware tool that con­sol­i­dates infor­ma­tion from all the review sites into a sin­gle dash­board. This makes the ardu­ous task of mon­i­tor­ing dozens of sites man­age­able. Sev­er­al com­pa­nies offer these types of tools; just be sure to ask any ven­dor you are con­sid­er­ing if they have API access to all the review sites that you have iden­ti­fied as a pri­or­i­ty.

DON’T: Waste too much time going from site to site, or try­ing to man­u­al­ly mon­i­tor reviews on every site out there. Deal­er­ships can be list­ed on dozens of sites, includ­ing direc­to­ries, so a tool that con­sol­i­dates all reviews and list­ings into one dash­board is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

Imple­ment­ing these rec­om­men­da­tions has proven to be effec­tive for thou­sands of Deal­er­Rater Cer­ti­fied Deal­er part­ners, and deal­er­ships with excel­lent online rep­u­ta­tions are cur­rent­ly enjoy­ing a sig­nif­i­cant com­pet­i­tive advan­tage. Shouldn’t your deal­er­ship be one of them?

Heather MacK­in­non is Vice Pres­i­dent Sales at Deal­er­Rater.  Con­tact her here or call 800–266-9455.

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