Car owners increasingly heed online customer reviews in deciding where to take their vehicles for service.
That’s according to Digital Air Strike’s annual Customer Experience Trend Study that polled 2,046 vehicle buyers and 2,784 service customers, ages 25 to 54.
Of them, 67% (a record number that’s up from 46% the previous year) said they select a dealer for service based solely on online searches and reviews.
Eighty-seven percent of service customers said online review sites helped in their dealer selection.
Yet, the study suggests dealers fail to do enough to encourage customer reviewing.
Asked if their dealership requested that they post a review of their service department experience, only 29% of polled customers said “yes.” The sales side did better at 42%. (Best practices recommend staffers keep the requests low-key and avoid resorting to pleading.)
The low ask-rate is head-scratching in a sense, because when customers did post dealer reviews, they were overwhelmingly positive: 88% for service and 81% for sales.
Accordingly, dealers can do more to highlight happy customers and get them to share their experiences online, Digital Air Strike’s co-founder and CEO Alexi Venneri (pictured, left) tells Wards.
She calls online reviews “the biggest influencers” of where customers shop. The survey says 90% of service customers said social media reviews helped in their dealership selection.
In addition to encouraging customers to do reviews, Digital Air Strike says it’s important that a dealership or its designated representative respond to reviews, both good and bad.
Compared with the prior year’s trend study, the latest one says 30% more service customers describe a dealership response as the most important part of a review.
Responding to good ones shows you care about your loyal customers, Venneri says.
In responding to negative reviews, Digital Air Strike recommends the following:
- First, take a deep breath. Let emotions die down before responding, especially if a negative reviewer has laid it on thick. Acknowledge the criticism and read the entire review.
- Address the reviewer by name. Thank them for the feedback.
- Sympathize. Accept responsibility. Keep the response simple.
- Take the conversation offline. Provide the name, phone number and email address of a high-ranking dealership contact.
- Remember that the public will see your response. People will perceive it as to how you treat customers.
Here’s definitely what not to do:
- Don’t make compensation offers online, lest others conclude complaining is a way to get freebies or discounts.
- Don’t get into an argument online or blame the reviewer for anything.
Among other things, Digital Air Strike helps more than 7,700 businesses with reputation management, including monitoring and fielding reviews across various social media sites.
“We’re like the air traffic controller of monitoring of conversations,” says Venneri.
She notes Google has become the biggest automotive customer review site because it now aggregates reviews from other sites, such as Kelley Blue Book, Facebook, Vehicles.com and Yelp.
Digital Air Strike uses artificial intelligence-powered technology for its reputation management and other business activities, including targeted ad campaigns, search-engine optimization and text marketing.
Steve Finlay is a retired Wards senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected].