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A survey indicates 59% of consumers say dealer reputation is the most important factor in deciding whom to buy from.

Responding to Car Dealership Customer Reviews a Found Art

“Reputation management has gained steam over the years,” says’s Erica Danford.

Who’s a good fit for fielding and responding to online dealership reviews?

Trained copywriters are. So are people who’ve had customer-service experience, says Erica Danford,’s assistant vice president-managerial services.

Former restaurant servers often have what it takes to get the reputation-management job done, she adds. “They know how to navigate both the front and back of the house. They need the cooks to love them and the customers, too.”

Danford oversees a team of workers who handle consumer reviews for dealer clients. It falls under reputation management, an important part of business, especially in the digital era that affords reviewers wide audiences, in contrast to the word-of-mouth days.  

“Reputation management has gained steam over the years,” she says.

Erica Danford Headshot (002).jpgSome dealerships handle their own reviews. But it’s a big job that can’t be done as a sideline effort, she says. “By dealers having us handle it for them, they can focus on selling and servicing vehicles.”

Internet users looking to buy a vehicle pay close attention to dealership reviews – and the posted reputations that result from them. “Eighty-eight percent of shoppers read reviews,” she says. “People pay close attention to them.” (Erica Danford, left)

She cites a survey indicating 59% of consumers say dealer reputation is the most important factor in deciding whom to buy from. 

It’s vital to reply to all reviews, good and bad. “It has to come across as natural and not forced,” Danford says, adding that a response to a negative review might in part typically go like this:

“Sorry your experience was challenging. Someone from the dealership will get back with you.” then forwards the review to a designated dealership person who can contact the disgruntled customer in a specific way.

Ideally, a well-handled response would result in the person who wrote a bad review either taking it down or revising it. What started as a beef could turn into a positive, if the complaint is handled well.   

The reputation-management team also looks to enhance search-engine optimization, increasing the likelihood of a good review showing up in a search-engine result.

The most business reviews are on Google, which gives dealers with good reviews higher play because “it wants to send users to good businesses,” Danford says. uses keywords to increase SEO and improve organic search results. Those words include dealership name, location, vehicle inventory and service capabilities.

Staffers who handle reviews scan them, looking for highlights and main points, Danford says. is launching a new reputation- and interaction-management platform that better enables responding to both negative and positive reviews.

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