Not long ago, customer sentiment was something of an afterthought for auto dealers.
But times have changed, because of the prolific use of social media and online reviews.
Consumers are going online to search for cars and weighing the sentiment shared on social media to evaluate dealerships and service centers alike. While the internet provides a platform for happy customers to share their good experiences at dealerships, it also allows disgruntled customers to complain to millions of people about dealership wait times or price-haggling hassles.
This new competitive reality is the need for dealerships to have in place a digital strategy that includes monitoring online sentiment and building and managing online reputations. Doing so will foster customer advocacy and draw new and repeat customers for both sales and service.
Here are three common best practices to develop online reputation using customer reviews.
Solicit Reviews on Google
Of all the automotive-review sites, Google is the 1,000-pound gorilla in search. As of October, Google led the search market with 63.1% of all searches in the U.S. That percentage jumped to 93% for Google mobile searches.
When a customer searches for “dealerships near me,” Google generates a map with the top three results. Having a lot of positive reviews is the best way to appear high among the so-called local pack. Both the quality and quantity of recent reviews drive the top three results.
With a focus on search results, dealers should ask every customer for a Google review. This request can be made verbally or through a platform that automates review requests.
Embrace Online Customer Reviews
With reviews rolling in, the worst response is no response. Dealerships should identify one person within their organization to consistently and expeditiously monitor and respond to both positive and negative reviews.
This will show customers the dealer is sensitive to the customer’s experience. Platforms can help analyze customer reviews using artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand whether it’s a negative or positive review.
Negative reviews should be acknowledged with an apology and assurance the situation will be handled efficiently.
Negative reviews often help a dealer identify big-picture issues that may go unnoticed on a day-to-day basis.
Positive customer reviews deserve acknowledgement as well, as these customers will inevitably become your dealership’s advocates.
Update Your Business Listing Across Sites
The last thing you want to do is drive customers to the wrong address. Make sure information listed on car-buying market websites is accurate and working.
- There are no flaws in your website links.
- Your service center phone number rings to the correct department.
- Hours of operation for both sales and service are correct.
- Street address is your dealership’s actual physical location and can easily be plugged into a mobile map and navigation application.
Maintaining accurate business listings is a time-consuming project, so consider enlisting a full-time dedicated resource. If this isn’t in your budget, a platform could take over that duty at a lower potential cost than of an in-house resource.
Online reviews have the power to inflict a crushing blow in the competitive auto industry. But they can also present an opportunity for your customers to advocate for your brand. (Wards Industry Voices contributor Ali Fawaz, left)
If monitored and managed properly, online reviews become tools dealers can use to gain insight into their business, prove their commitment to consumers and enhance the customer experience.
Ali Fawaz is the general manager and senior director of Worldwide Automotive at Reputation.com. He works with leading auto dealerships to help them evaluate customer sentiment and automate online reviews.