Dealer Insight Newsletter December 2009

Bridging The Gap

Dealer Insight from

Volume I   Issue No. VIII December 2009

Case Study: Scott Robinson Honda

You've heard what the Edmunds team has to say about reputation management, but let's face it, Edmunds staffers do not get commission checks based on how many cars they sell in a given month. So, to drive this point home, we went to speak with a guy who actually does sell cars for a living.

About a year and a half ago, Chris Carlson, the Sales and Marketing Manager at Scott Robinson Honda in Southern California implemented a system to build up their online ratings and reviews. As a smaller Honda store they were looking for an edge, so they started talking to customers about something other than price. I had the chance to interview Chris, and he was kind enough to share his secret recipe with us, right down to the actual e-mails he's been sending to customers.

Maryann: What inspired you to get aggressive with your online reputation

Chris: Well, first our General Manager, Eric Blostad, came back from a dealer 20 group and one of the things that they went over was online reputation management. He asked me to go online and find all the sites that you are able to write reviews on. Turns out that there are more than 20 of them, but people really only use 5-7 of them. Once I found these sites, I noticed that you could "claim your business" and by doing so could control the information on the sites, like your phone number and Web address. I found that most of these sites have the wrong information for your store. Most have the manufacturer's URL instead of the dealership URL. I found that was often listed instead of So, people were clicking on those links, expecting to get to the dealer Web site, and they didn't, so the lead was lost.

We also set up a unique 800 number for each ratings site to track where people are contacting us from. I can tell you that from these sites we get anywhere from 3-7 calls a day which goes to prove that having the right information listed there is pretty important. With most of these sites you are able to upload photos and create special offers or coupons. The best way to find out how many rating sites are out there is to simply Google your dealership's name and go through the first 10-15 pages. Click on every link. You will be surprised to see how much info is out there about your dealership and how much of it is incorrect. This is definitely worth the effort!

Maryann: How many times a week do you check on your ratings and reviews?

Chris: I usually check twice a week. I seriously suggest that you set up a Google alert account for your dealership's name. This way every time your dealership name is mentioned in a review, article or blog, it will send you an alert letting you know that someone or something has been said about you on the Internet. This is not foolproof though, which is why you should always check. The best part about checking is replying to the people that have said something about you. If they say something positive, I make sure that I reply to them by thanking them. If they say something negative, it is important to respond in a nonaggressive way. Remember that the customer is always right. Basically you want to apologize and let them know that we are doing the best that we can to not let this happen again. I even thank them for going out of their way to point out what we did wrong so we can learn from our mistakes. You want people to know that you are reading these reviews-that you are human-that we are not perfect, but we do care! For a small fee, sites like Yelp and Dealer Rater allow you to contact the people through e-mail that have left a negative review. This is great because it allows you get the problem turned around. On a couple of occasions I have turned a 1-star negative review to a 5-star happy review just by contacting the person and fixing the problem. Earlier this year I went to the Digital Dealer conference and sat in on a seminar on online reputation management and sadly the room was only half full. Sadly, dealers are still not getting it. This is just a small piece to the big puzzle on selling cars online. When I talk to friends in the business and show them what I am doing they look like a deer in the headlights. That needs to change!

Maryann: How do you get customers to post reviews?

Chris: The best way to get positive reviews is to ask for them! If we have a customer that is really happy we send them an e-mail with a link to the review Web site that we want them to go to. If you make it easy for people, then they will do it. If someone writes a nice letter or sends us a nice e-mail about their experience, we ask them to please put it online for everyone to see. t is very important that you do not have them do it from the dealership. If these sites see that all the reviews are coming from the same IP address it will block them as it will think that you are spamming them or doing them yourself. It is also very important that you don't make up your own reviews-believe me, people will see right through it. I believe that as long as you have nine good reviews for every one bad review, then people know that you are human! That is why it is important to ask. If you do something above and beyond the call of duty for a customer to fix a problem, make sure you ask them to do a review. Believe me, if you make someone happy they are more than happy to help you! Here is one of the e-mail templates we send to our potential customers:

Maryann: How many Web sites do you check?

Chris: Six. And it is pretty easy to do. As people start to write reviews the sites start to climb up the pages on Google. So, after a period of time all you have to do is Google your dealership's name and the reviews will all be on the first or second pages. Also, remember that the most current review you receive will be what people will see in the first couple of lines of text on Google. I literally saw a Dodge dealer where the first couple of lines that you could read about them said "Have you ever felt like the hooker at the Tijuana donkey show? Well that's how this dealer made me feel!" This is why it is important to get as many good reviews as possible. People will go out of their way to write bad reviews if they are upset!

Maryann: What has been the most positive aspect of implementing a reputation management strategy?

Chris: Believe it or not, people are looking for a reason "NOT" to buy a car from you. When we have customers that are shopping us against other dealers, we make a point of showing them our competitors' online reviews and compare them to ours. With our Internet customers, we send an e-mail template that has our reviews, along with all of our competition, in our e-mail campaigns. We have people tell us all the time that they are going to buy a car from us because of our reviews. We have even added our reviews to our own site. It is by far the best way to self-promote your dealership, and people listen to what other people have to say. I can honestly say that we can source 7-10 people a month that come to the dealership, and when we ask them how they heard about us they tell us "we read your reviews online."

Maryann: How has this system impacted your bottom line? (Cars a month? Higher gross?)

Chris: We definitely sell cars because of the effort we make. Exactly how many a month, I could not be exact. But, we sell more cars because of it. We make gross easier as well. People already trust us because they've read what our customers have said about us.

Maryann: Anything else you'd like to add? Do you think it's worth it? If you were to make one recommendation to other dealers, what would it be?

Chris: As a dealership, we knew it was a no-brainer to do this. It is more than worth the effort, it just takes someone to do it. It is the old adage of, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." I can tell you how to do it and why you should do it, but the question now is...Will you do it? My best recommendation to other dealers would be to assign this job to your Internet Director or BDC Director. They are the ones selling cars online- they should manage the way people see them online.

Maryann: Wow, did you get all of that? In working with different dealerships, the most frequent questions I hear are What else can I do? How can I sell more cars? How much does it cost? I think for today, those questions have just been answered. Thanks, Chris! Dealer Programs

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