Did you know that your dealership’s reputation online has a direct impact on your website traffic? In fact, according to research performed recently by 3 Birds Marketing, dealers that improved their online reputation the most saw on average a 42% increase in their website traffic whereas dealers that made little to no improvements saw on average a 58% decrease in their website traffic.
Knowing this, you would think that every dealership would make a point to implement an effective online reputation strategy. The problem however is that many dealers, and their reputation providers have it all wrong.
If you think that your dealership’s “online reputation” is something you can manage then you have it all wrong. If you think your reputation online is limited to ratings and reviews, then again you have it all wrong. The words “online” and “management” are misnomers to the idea of your dealership’s reputation.
In October 2013, automotive professional Arnold Tijerina wrote a post called Reputation Management is Bullsh@t where he explained, “Treat people right; you’ll reap the benefits of some of them sharing that fact online. If you treat them wrong, however, you’re screwed.”
To Arnold’s point, what people say about you online is a bi-product of their experience with you. Therefore, monitoring ratings and reviews is too little too late. The negative customer experience has already occurred and been let out of the bag. Now all you can do about it is demonstrate how you handle the situation. Important, yes, but that’s not a solution. That’s a protocol.
Reputation Begins with Your People, Not Technology
A real auto dealer reputation solution begins inside the dealership with your people and your internal process, not with a monitoring tool that reports on your ratings and reviews. When implemented effectively these components form the foundation from which your “online reputation” becomes a powerful sales and marketing tool.
Every team member must be knowledgeable and bought in with the dealership’s vision and mission and their role and responsibility for ensuring that each and every customer with which they interact experiences the same white glove experience.
Unless you have this foundation then it is only a matter of time before a bad customer experience gets posted online somewhere.
When I call my cell phone provider, or contact an airline, or talk with Hotels.com for example, the person assisting me always asks if I was satisfied with my experience with them. They also ask if I would be willing to fill out a survey providing feedback on my experience. I always say yes, even if I don’t always provide feedback.
When I visit a department store such as Target, the person at the register always asks if I want to save 5% on every purchase by opening a Target charge card. This consistency is not by chance. These people are trained and required to do so and I have to say, they do it well.
Reputation Tips for Your Service Department
This same level of consistency and diligence is what is needed in your dealership in order to truly knock your online reputation out of the park. When a service advisor ends his or her session with the customer he or she needs to be asking the customer something like:
“Did I address everything adequately for you and are you satisfied with your service today?”
This way, in the event the customer is not 100% satisfied you have a chance to find out and address it before the customer leaves. Then when the customer visits the cashier, you can ask again, and assuming the response is “yes” then additionally ask something on the lines of:
“You might receive an email from us in the next few days asking you to share your experience about your visit today. Would you be willing to do that for us?”
Of course most everybody will say yes and some will actually do it if they see the email, which I discuss below.
Additionally, try to have a manager approach each customer as they leave to ask them how their experience was and see if there might possibly be anything keeping this customer from walking out 100% satisfied.
One of my favorite commercials is a Bank of America commercial I saw several years ago where they show the process a check goes through in its banking system. In the commercial the narrator states something on the lines of, “It’s not about doing a million things right. It’s about doing the same thing right a million times (a day).”
When your team members are consistently ensuring that each and every customer is 100% satisfied before they leave and are tipping off the customer that they might be prompted to share their feedback in a few days, you want to be sure to follow up with that. This is a sign of integrity.
The Technology Factor
Setting up an automated process at your dealership where each customer receives an email asking to share their experience is not a difficult task to do in your CRM. There are different camps of philosophy as to how a dealer should approach the customer. Some argue that you should not try to intercept a potentially negative review and instead let it hit the web, but I believe most do attempt to avoid perpetuating this to occur.
At 3 Birds Marketing where I am a Regional Sales Director we design our responsive emails for dealers on the Reputation Builder product to ask the customer whether or not they would recommend our dealership to a friend.
If they choose “Yes” then we prompt them with 2-3 review sites based on email detection and an algorithm to determine where reviews are needed the most. I personally recommend against showing the Yelp review because directing people to your Yelp listing by way of a link in an email increases the likeliness of the review being filtered, but ultimately that is your choice as the dealer.
If they choose “No” then we direct them to an online form where the customer can submit feedback on their negative experience to go directly to the dealership. of course anyone that chooses the “No” option and does not provide feedback is flagged immediately for the dealer to contact.
Are You Ready to Approach Your Reputation the Right Way?
As you can imagine, or as you probably already experience at your dealership, establishing and maintaining a true foundation from which you can put your online reputation to work for you as a sales and marketing tool is probably the most challenging aspect to all this. To accomplish this it requires leadership, vision, coaching, and training and there are few options out there for dealers to harness this type of consulting.
Additionally, you may contact me directly for deeper strategic consultation as it pertains to your dealership. Naturally, I will encourage you to implement the auto dealer reputation technology solutions powered by my employer 3 Birds Marketing, but as my client you will benefit additionally from my personal experience and expertise in this space.
Producer and Host of the AutoConverse Future Mobility & Connectivity Podcast, Ryan began working in the automotive industry in 2001, establishing his roots in online vehicle merchandising before expanding into digital marketing and now multi media for Automotive B2B. You can connect with Ryan on LinkedIn.