Reputation experts have been telling us for years of the importance of online review management. The top-performing dealerships are leveraging their customer experiences online and growing their revenue as a result. We examine how some dealers are taking the reins and steering their online efforts to grow and maintain a positive brand reputation online for results.
The First Email One Dealership President Reads Every Day
The president of Sonic Automotive, Inc. tells Automotive News that the first email he opens every morning isn’t an internal note from a fellow executive within his 96 franchised stores or automotive news piece. He may get to those later, but for now, the first email he opens is the review feedback and metrics recap from his software vendor, Reputation.com. The first thing he wants to see are the 100 or so freshly posted comments about experiences with his dealership. Sonic Automotive, Inc. isn’t the only dealer group prioritizing online review management efforts. It’s a growing asset for the marketing toolkit, and not embracing it can be costly.
- 92% of customers consult reviews before making a purchase decision
- Cars.com – Estimates 15.5 million unique site visitors monthly
- DealerRater.com – Half a million visitors read review content monthly
- Edmunds.com – Typically reports 14 million visitors each month
Inconsistency Can Be Detrimental
It is challenging to manage online reviews, especially when there are countless websites out there offering platforms for consumers to brag on or bash a local company. Yelp, Google, Cars.com, and DealerRater.com offer such channels, and dealers should be managing all of the responses and feedback. Some dealer managers instead try to focus on a few or a select number of sites. But that can prove detrimental, should the online brand reputation become inconsistent. For example, if a company has rave reviews with the Better Business Bureau, but has plummeting ratings with Yelp, the result is a confused potential customer who may opt to shop elsewhere.
Tools to Promote Your Best Online Reputation
There are dealership tools available to help you not only keep a finger on the pulse of what former and present customers are saying about you online but can also provide key metrics to help you identify trends and make improvements in your customer service experience. One such tool is Reputation.com, and dealers like Sonic Automotive, Inc. are tapping into it. Other software review companies, like Birdeye.com and Podium.com, also offer similar tools to help streamline online review collection, monitoring, and management.
Incentivizing Your Best Customers
One Florida dealership told Automotive News about developing an incentive program to promote and inspire great customer reviews. Brian Bush, vice president of e-commerce with the Tom Bush Family of Dealerships, started an employee incentive program back in 2013, arming the internal sales and service staff with extras to encourage customers to take to their keyboards about their dealership experiences. In doing so, Bush says the retailer’s online scores have increased continuously. One key to successful online reputation efforts is separating those initiatives by department. Encouraging the service and parts departments to stay atop their reviews separately from the sales teams, helps each focus on securing positive reviews in their respective departments. It also helps to keep the improvements manageable at the departmental level.
It can be overwhelming for any marketing manager to supervise all the various platforms out there that customers use to share their opinions about your dealership. Consider adding a tool to help you manage the data and posts as they present themselves. Seeing the reviews regularly can help you stay on top of your dealership’s reputation online. It can also mean prioritizing your first email of the day, to be one full of reviews and data you can use to grow your revenue.