Auto Dealers: Reputation Management Myths

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By Natasha Seidl

Deal­ers need to think twice about some long-held beliefs about auto­mo­tive rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment.

Here are a few of the lat­est find­ings that will sur­prise you.

Myth # 1 – You have to have all five star reviews. If you don’t, no one will buy a car from you.

The bad news is, the auto­mo­tive indus­try has it tough right out of the gate. A new Cobalt rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment eBook sur­vey­ing over 2,500 deal­er­ships found that, for all oth­er indus­tries, the aver­age rep­u­ta­tion ratio is 80 per­cent pos­i­tive reviews and 20 per­cent neg­a­tive reviews. In the auto indus­try, how­ev­er, an unman­aged deal­er­ship rep­u­ta­tion has an aver­age of 80 per­cent neg­a­tive reviews and only 20 per­cent pos­i­tive.

The good news? Turn­ing your rep­u­ta­tion around may be eas­i­er than you think. When it comes to star rat­ings, break­ing the 3.5 thresh­old gets you into the con­sid­er­a­tion set. In oth­er words, don’t wor­ry if your reviews aren’t 100% five stars. The fact is that peo­ple want to read real expe­ri­ences, and will like­ly expect to see a few “bad eggs” mixed in. A mix of reviews builds cred­i­bil­i­ty and trust in the mind of the poten­tial cus­tomer.

Myth # 2 – If you ignore a bad review, every­one will.

It’s not just reviews that count; it’s how you respond. If car-shop­pers see com­plaints, they are look­ing to see how you han­dled your pre­vi­ous cus­tomers. The fact is, rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment is a human process, and ignor­ing a neg­a­tive review will make it look like you don’t care.

Post­ing an auto­mat­ed response counts as ignor­ing a neg­a­tive review.  While it may even seem like a sim­ple solu­tion to copy and paste an auto response, it’s not effec­tive. Peo­ple see canned respons­es as untrust­wor­thy and not trans­par­ent.  You need to relay per­son­al­ized and ded­i­cat­ed review response mes­sages.

Myth # 3 – I can just do a “review dri­ve” and get all the reviews I need for the year.

There is no quick fix for online review gen­er­a­tion. Slow and steady wins the race. While pro­vid­ing a great car-buy­ing expe­ri­ence is the foun­da­tion of a sol­id rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment strat­e­gy, it’s not enough. It is essen­tial to have an in–store review process that sim­ply becomes sec­ond nature to the staff.  Reviews are impor­tant to the busi­ness at every touch point where it makes sense – dur­ing deliv­ery, at the cash wrap, and once the cus­tomer has dri­ven home in their new car.

Natasha Sei­dl is a Rep­u­ta­tion Man­age­ment Spe­cial­ist with Cobalt.

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