Although this may have been true in third grade, it's definitely not true today. Words can indeed hurt your business, but they can also be extremely beneficial to your business as well. If, that is, you understand how to manage your online reputation...
Online ratings and reviews are fast becoming an essential part of the online shopping process.Dealer ratings and reviews give consumers the opportunity to learn from their peers about their car buying experiences. If you know there are conversations online about your store, good for you, if you are managing those conversations, utilizing them in the sales department, and using them against your competition...you get a gold star! If all of this is new to you, well then I'm glad you found this newsletter. The good news is that by becoming part of the process now you can help cultivate more positive reviews and use your response to reviews to tell your side of the story.
Why do customers like ratings and reviews? If one of your friends came back from a great vacation, and went on and on about how beautiful the hotel was, how clean and helpful the staff was, and if you were headed to the same city, wouldn't you be more inclined to consider this hotel? If your neighbor had a great meal at a new restaurant, would their evaluation of the menu and atmosphere help you decide whether you wanted to try it out?
You trust your friends, colleagues, neighbors and peers because they've probably made good recommendations in the past. Why would anyone trust a review from someone they don't know? Customers use the number of reviews to verify the overall trustworthiness of total strangers. If there is one review with 1 star, or one review with 5 stars, both of those reviews probably rate about the same in terms of reliability. It's just one person's opinion.
Let's take the Amazon Kindle as an example. The Kindle has 8,684 reviews and averages at 4 stars. Does that make you think twice about paying $259 for this product?
All of a sudden, it seems like a better value, if you were on the fence this might be what pushes you to the other side. Now apply this same thinking to your dealership. If you had 30 reviews with an average of 4 stars and your biggest competitor had 5 reviews with an average of 2 stars, would that give you more opportunities to sell cars? What if we were talking about 200 reviews with an average of 4 stars vs. 2 reviews with an average of 5 stars, are you with me? What if all of these reviews and ratings were plastered in car buying Web sites where consumers are researching? How would the best case scenario help your business? How could the worst case scenario hurt your business?
For many people the car buying experience is intimidating. And with so many brands, styles, options and financing packages to choose from, it's not quite as simple as going to the guy your parents always went to. Manufacturers often promise one thing, and dealerships offer other things. Consumers are confused and nervous about making a bad decision and choosing the "wrong' dealership to do business with. Where do they go? Who can they trust?
But, how can these customers help you? You've received letters from customers raving about their experience before right? Now channel that energy, to one place, to a place where other in-market customers can read them! Here's how you do it.
- Google your store. Google compiles many of the reviews out there to give your store an overall star rating. If there are reviews out there they will come up in the first 10 links, or right under your name and address.
- If there are reviews, read them.
- Do your homework on the negative reviews, and then respond by posting a positive, professional response.
- Be consistent. Choose one Web site to work with so you can build reviews quickly. There are lots of Web sites out there that offer rating and review opportunities. (Check out the pros and cons in the table below)
- If you aren't sure where to begin, then start with Edmunds.com Dealer Ratings and Reviews.
- Utilize your post delivery e-mail system to encourage customers to write a review about their experience at your dealership. Include a link at the bottom of your e-mail to an online ratings and reviews Web site. (See table below)
- Keep up with your reviews. Bad reviews are ok, they keep the process honest for customers. If all the reviews were positive they will reject the reviews as quickly as if they were all negative. Everyone knows you can't make everyone happy all of the time! Your response to those negative reviews is where potential customers will decide what their experience will be if things don't go as smoothly as you'd hoped.
- Send an e-mail request to your list of current customers with a link to the Web site and ask them to share their experience. I know this works, because when I ordered shoes online they sent me an e-mail and asked if I'd like to write a review and I was happy to. Your current customers will feel the same way.
- Update your dealership information on the Web sites listed in the table below, it's FREE! Try adding coupons, photos, an accurate Web site address, and a trackable phone number.
Visit our Dealer Resource Center for more ideas, suggestions and other tips on how to get consumers to submit ratings about their positive dealership experience.
Ratings and reviews have become such a vital part of the consumer experience it won't be long before you'll see these reviews popping up within your new and used inventory listing services. (Would you ever buy anything on eBay if the seller didn't have a good rating? And that's for a $35 second hand lamp) Ratings and reviews are so important Manufacturers are even speaking about using online ratings and reviews in place of CSI.
Get ahead of the curve. If you don't have a process, start one today. By simply incorporating this link, www.edmunds.com/ratedealer in your post delivery e-mails with a request to share your experience, you will begin to build your online reputation. Does this sound scary to you? Are you afraid you might lose customers if they find a bad review? Consumers are going to write reviews. Did you know there are customers that have built entire Web sites to share a negative car buying or service experience? Consumers will be heard, but it's up to you to make sure they find the good reviews even if they find the bad reviews. The majority of the people out there aren't going to buy a car from someone they don't like and there's always going to be someone that tries to blast your store. The only way to manage your reputation is to participate in the process.
Not to mention, potential customers that read these reviews are likely to close at a higher gross because they're coming to you for your customer service in addition to a fair price. As with your CSI, the good should outweigh the bad when it comes to your online ratings and reviews. Dealerships that have strong rating and review systems have already started to benefit from these reviews. Isn't it time you started benefiting too?
Remember, who you are online, is who you are in life!
Maryann Young, Director, Strategic Marketing
DealerInsight@edmunds.com | 310-691-4702