Too Many Rave Reviews Raise Eyebrows

Steve Finaly

December 8, 2010

2 Min Read
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Auto dealers don’t want to get blasted in an online review. But they could take flak for getting raved about too much on social-media websites.

One glowing review after another can raise eyebrows – and cause an embarrassing backlash, especially if funny business is uncovered.

For instance, a car shopper got suspicious when he read so many glowing reviews about a particular BMW store. He wondered why the same screen names also appeared with positive ratings for various other businesses.

He called a local TV news outlet. It ended up doing an expose-like story. The dubious reviews were the work of a professional firm. But the dealership took the most heat.

“When people suspect reviews are gamed, they will start trashing a dealership,” says Richard Winch, cofounder and CEO of eXteresAuto, a firm that offers dealers online reputation-management services.

That BMW dealership got nailed – either fairly or unfairly, depending on one’s point of view – after it hired a review-booster company.

The firm extracted customer-satisfaction data from the store’s dealer-management system. It then separated positive comments. It was to get permission to use them from the customers who wrote them. But it is unclear if the firm actually did that or just ran with the good stuff.

Regardless, Winch sees a problem with reformatting customer-satisfaction survey material and passing it off as a posted review, with a fabricated screen name no less.

“You need to disclose that,” he tells Ward’s. “It falls short of authentic. It creates a situation in which an atomic bomb is waiting to go off at the dealership.”

There is nothing wrong with dealerships asking customers to post positive reviews, says Russell Grant, eXteres’ national sales manager. He encourages that.

“You have to ask in the right way,” he says. “For example, if you jumped through 20 hoops to get a customer a special auto part, you might say, ‘Could you do us a favor, as we’ve done one for you?’”

Asking for a good review should be done humbly and tactfully – but it should be done, just as a good salesperson asks for the sale, Grant says.

He recalls visiting a dealership with lots of customer traffic. “I told the dealer, ‘You’ve got 10 good reviews on the floor right now.’”

eXteres’ reputation management offerings include systematically monitoring online reviews and flagging bad ones so dealership clients can potentially act on them.

People posting bad reviews might change their minds if a dealer contacts them and tries to make things right.

“We’ve had dealerships take a negative situation and turn it into a positive,” Winch says.

In such cases, an initially disgruntled person sometimes posts a new review praising the dealership for resolving the problem.

“It’s part of managing your online assets,” Winch says.

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