Tesla, an automaker with a customer base that comes close to a cult following, nonetheless racks up the poorest industry response rate to social-media consumer reviews.
That’s according to Reputation.com’s Automotive Reputation Report. Tesla’s weak showing in handling Internet reviews seems ironic considering it relies heavily on online orders.
Yet Tesla’s spot in the cellar comes as no surprise to Ali Fawaz, general manager-worldwide automotive at Reputation.com, a company with a reputation-management platform that aggregates customer review feedback and monitors reviews.
“Tesla doesn’t use franchised dealers, who tend to take care of customers like a mom-and-pop store, and that includes responding to reviews, good and bad,” he tells Wards. “Tesla is all corporate. And (Tesla founder) Elon Musk has said he’s not a big fan of social media.” (Ali Fawaz, left)
The electric-vehicle maker responded to only 2% of negative reviews, according to the Reputation.com study. (Tesla apparently means never having to say you’re sorry.)
Nissan scored No.1 in the 2020 annual reputation report’s ranking, followed by Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus. It was the other way around last year.
Businesses should respond to both good and bad reviews, especially the latter, to keep negativity from escalating or lingering, Fawaz says. “Customers learn from other customers.”
In the event of a bad review, a dealership should “acknowledge the situation, apologize if necessary, show concern and try to rectify it by taking the conversation offline,” he advises. “Avoid getting into the weeds.”
A response to a positive review may require no more than a thank-you, he says. “Customers who leave positive reviews are your advocates.”
Paradoxically, negative reviews ultimately may help a dealership inasmuch as they can reveal operational deficiencies that aren’t readily apparent to management.
Such reviews “can quantify what’s happening at the dealership,” Fawaz says.
Dealers need to stay in tune with customer feedback and seek ways to continually improve operations to foster positive customer experiences, he says.
That said, dealerships generally get many more positive reviews than negative ones.
Google My Business (GMB) is the biggest place for reviews, Fawaz says. “It acts like a substitute for a website.”
The automotive industry has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are signs of a GMB performance recovery, according to a Reputation.com report on the economic effects of the virus.
GMB clicks for auto dealerships dropped steeply throughout March but appear to have bottomed out and are even showing a slight increase, the report says.
Depending on how states apply shelter-in-place mandates, many auto dealerships have remained open, most only for service but others for both sales and service.
For dealerships, GMB clicks to a certain extent have shifted from those requesting driving directions to clicks to call the dealership or visit its website, the report says.