Drive Dealer Business with Reviews: Ready, Set Go!

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By Ryan Leslie

The ideal is an online rep­u­ta­tion that enhances the public’s opin­ion of your deal­er­ship and its employ­ees. This per­cep­tion should con­vert to sales.

New quan­tifi­able data shows that deal­er­ships’ online reviews and asso­ci­ated star rat­ings do just that – drive new vehi­cle sales.  The data (based on a recent DealerRater/Polk study that exam­ined all fran­chised deal­ers on DealerRater.com) indi­cates that deal­ers with higher aver­age star rat­ings pro­duce a higher increase in sales as com­pared to deal­ers with lower star rat­ings dur­ing the study period.  For exam­ple, deal­ers with an aver­age star rat­ing of 4.0 or higher had a 25% greater increase in sales com­pared to deal­er­ships with an aver­age star rat­ing of 2.0 or less.

Online rep­u­ta­tions can’t just hap­pen… that’s the bad news. The good news is it’s nei­ther com­pli­cated nor costly to fos­ter a favor­able online rep­u­ta­tion that enhances auto con­sumers’ inter­est in doing busi­ness with your deal­er­ship and its employees.

Here are the top four steps in build­ing an online rep­u­ta­tion that dri­ves busi­ness for your dealership: 

1. Focus on review con­tent that mat­ters.  Cus­tomers demand trust before they enter the pur­chase fun­nel and more of their pur­chase deci­sion is made out­side of the deal­er­ship than ever before. Con­sumers these days meet, chat and com­pare deal­er­ships online.  How­ever, 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. Adopt a smart but sim­ple Page 1 strat­egy.  When research­ing deal­er­ships online, peo­ple can choose to trust and con­tinue or dis­like and bolt in a nanosec­ond. Just as you strive to keep your dealership’s frontage clean and attrac­tive, be sure to main­tain your online pres­ence as well. With­out reg­u­lar house­keep­ing, detract­ing clut­ter such as neg­a­tive reviews will pol­lute your search results pages.

Start by doing 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.

3. Don’t play it too safe when it comes to reviews.  Begin by ask­ing your happy cus­tomers to write a review for your deal­er­ship.  How­ever, once you have accu­mu­lated 30–40 pos­i­tive reviews, and insu­lated your deal­er­ship rep­u­ta­tion, make reviews an inte­gral part of our sales and ser­vice processes.  A good base of reviews is a sign of an active, vibrant dealership.

Be sure your Page 1 impres­sion makes it easy for vis­i­tors and cus­tomers to eas­ily spot and read your reviews. If cus­tomers don’t see that they can trust you online, you won’t see them in your dealership.

4. Get an offense in place.  Your online rep­u­ta­tion is not some­thing that should 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.   Be sure to lever­age your rep­u­ta­tion in three areas: online, in the show­room and over the phone.

Online reviews and rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment are fast becom­ing inte­gral parts of the way car deal­er­ships attract and hold cus­tomers.  Today it is an absolute neces­sity to have a process in place to build and proac­tively lever­age cus­tomer reviews.

If you incor­po­rate these core build­ing blocks for build­ing and main­tain­ing your online pres­ence, your deal­er­ship will enjoy higher rat­ings, more pos­i­tive con­sumer per­cep­tion, and in turn, drive more busi­ness to your dealership.

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

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