How to Handle the Implied Threat of a Bad Dealer Review

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By Ryan Leslie

A very good friend sent me a recent article from the LA Times regarding a self-described serial entrepreneur by the name of Brad Newman. According to the article, Newman’s latest creation is called a Reviewer Card. How does it work? For $100 Newman will sell the Reviewer Card to consumers who then rely on the Reviewer Card in your dealership to put you on warning that by giving them exemplary service, moving their RO to the front of the stack to save them time and heck, even cutting your prices to save them money is a fair exchange for a good review. Failure to do these things will most certainly get your dealership a very negative review. Newman is careful not to say it in those terms, but it is certainly implied.

Not everybody has the gall to be a card-toting member like Newman, but it is likely that a similar customer often darkens the door of your dealership. What do you do when faced with a Blackmailin’ Brad? How do you handle a customer that makes it very obvious that they are willing to use their consumer voice in an attempt to “negotiate” with you?

This isn’t a new phenomenon — Consumers have been threatening to contact the BBB and other consumer related outlets for years when they don’t feel they’ve been treated fairly. It’s just that much more transparent in this Internet era. How you treat your customers has very much come to the forefront of your unsold prospect’s research phase in the buying cycle.

• The Brad’s of the World do not change the fact that superior customer service should ALWAYS be the focus of your dealership.
• Treat every customer as if they too were a card carrying member of the “I write reviews” club. They in fact are … even when they don’t buy from you. The savvy dealer needs to recognize that every point of contact, indeed every interaction is an opportunity to earn a good or bad review.

We suggest a simple answer to diffuse Blackmailin’ Brad’s attempt to use their consumer voice as a “negotiation tool.
• Try something like this: “GREAT! Believe it or not we were going to ask you to review us. We ask every customer to let us know how we are doing, every time! We want you to be happy with your experience here, we certainly don’t want you to feel like writing a negative review is your only option if you aren’t satisfied. What can we do right now to help improve your experience?”

We know that the overwhelming majority of your customers leave your dealership extremely satisfied with their experience. Personally inviting every consumer to share their experience will not only help to insulate you from the BlackMailin’ Brads of the world, but also help to build up strong evidence of your consumer satisfaction focus and persuade your prospective customers to do business with your dealership. To your success!

Ryan Leslie, Director of Dealer Reputation Strategy at DealerRater can be reached at ryan@dealerrater.com.

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  • Michal Lusk

    I love the way DealerRater handles negative reviews for certified dealers. DealerRater's policies encourage dealers to reach out to customers after a negative review, find out what happened, and if possible rectify it, before the review goes public. I especially appreciated reviews that started off negative, but were updated and changed to positive by the reviewer after we reached out to them.