A ranking of business-reputation strength dispels some negative stereotypes about auto dealerships.
According to Reputation.com, dealerships received better overall customer sentiment and higher reputation scores than the other major industries the company has examined. Dealers are among the most responsive to online customer feedback.
That’s according to the 2019 Automotive Reputation Report for which Reputation.com analyzed online data on more than 16,000 U.S. dealerships. The report covered reviews, listings, social media, search results and customer engagements from sources that included Google, Facebook and third-party automotive websites.
Auto retailers posted an average reputation index score of 607 (on a 0-to-1,000 scale), edging out the hospitality industry (605). They also led the way in review quality, averaging 4.4 stars out of 5 over the past 12 months.
“Managing your online reputation is vital in any industry, but you could argue it’s even more significant in the auto industry, considering 95% of vehicle buyers use digital sources to conduct car-buying research,” says Michael Fertik, Reputation.com’s founder and chairman. “Proactive communication is how brands can win business in the digital age.”
Conversely, “a lack of engagement with consumers on social channels and search engines could lead potential customers to consider competing brands or dealers with better reviews and responses,” he says.
Key report findings:
- Lexus has the highest average reputation score (700+) for auto brands.
- Lincoln is generating some of the most favorable consumer sentiment within the industry.
- Consumer review volumes are the greatest for Toyota retail dealers among all OEM brands.
- Google dominates online review volume.
- Tesla has the poorest response rate to consumer reviews and engagement in the industry.
Findings suggest Tesla’s low score could be due to a failure to respond to negative reviews. Tesla responds to just 1% of the negative reviews it receives online, by far the lowest among the manufacturers in the report.
Tesla dealerships came in with an engagement score of 3%. No other manufacturer's dealerships had an engagement score below 42%. Only 7% of Tesla dealerships claimed a reputation score above 700, easily the lowest rate among dealerships analyzed.
In comparison, dealership chain Sonic Automotive scored high.
“We place significant importance and invest our efforts in managing our online customer reviews,” says Rachel Richards, Sonic’s chief marketing officer. “We closely monitor and respond to all reviews, positive or negative.
“Daily reports are reviewed at all levels of our organization, including by our CEO and president.”
Reputation scores can change quickly in the so-called feedback economy, says Reputation.com CEO Joe Fuca. “Consistent monitoring, responding and engagement are essential to successfully maintaining a positive online presence and proactively mitigating potential customer issues.”
Higher reputation scores lead to higher sales, says the report.
Auto dealers see about 1% increase in sales for every 30- to 40-point increase in their reputation score. Dealers who manage their reputations effectively can achieve a 10% increase in average sales volume. In contrast, dealers whose reputation scores decrease see a corresponding drop in sales, according to the report by Reputation.com, provider of a cloud-based reputation and customer-experience-management platform.