Automotive

Reputation Check: Negative Reviews Are Costing You Business!

I’m in the process of moving from Washington state to Missouri in the next month. Moving is stressful regardless, but trying to coordinate a move to a city 1,800 miles away has been quite the challenge. Fortunately, I’ve had help knowing which neighborhoods to consider and I already know the area fairly well. What I don’t know is the leasing companies.

Coming from the automotive industry where dealerships are eager to constantly reach out to prospective buyers, the leasing industry is a bit different as I’ve come to learn. I essentially had a week in town to lock down a place to live, so I wanted to make the most of my trip by viewing several potential houses in case my favorite fell through.

In this process, I reached out to several leasing companies to secure appointments. For several, I submitted a web lead a week in advance so they’d have my contact information and followed up with a phone call. As the clock ticked, I switched directly to calling the companies. Many did not contact me back, some opted to text only and some preferred email. One didn’t get back to me for over a week, finally texting me when I had already returned.

As I was scrambling to set appointments, I ended up researching several of these leasing companies. Ironically, the company I had the most trouble with – the one that did not return my calls and emails for over a week had the highest reviews. The company I ended up going with had some of the lowest review scores.

I will admit I hesitated in deciding to move forward with the company I chose due to the review scores. But I’d had the most positive experience from the get-go with this company. I even had been dealing directly with the owner. He was professional, punctual, friendly and helpful. I really couldn’t understand why his company would have gotten such low reviews. So I decided to see what people had to say.

Now working in automotive, I’ve seen my share of negative reviews. I also know that when you’re making a large investment such as a vehicle or a home, there are many factors that can impact your ideal outcome. Maybe you have a low credit score or things in your history that will prevent you from affording what you would prefer. I also know there are always two sides to a story and again, my background at a dealership gave me excellent insight as to what the customer is claiming versus what actually went on. Yes, there are times when a business completely screws up – it happens. But a lot of the time, it has nothing to do with the business and everything with the customer.

In reading the reviews, I confirmed what I suspected – the majority of reviewers were disgruntled over something that didn’t really have anything to do with the company. Several even admitted to not having leased from the company, and while I think it’s important for consumers to provide feedback on why they didn’t choose a particular business, these review sites are weighing their feedback as a non-customer equally to actual customers. Other reviewers were complaining about details that were clearly laid out in the rental application.

After reading several reviews, I began to notice some patterns and realizing perhaps many of these reviewers were being unreasonable. Yes, there were some legitimate complaints, but when I considered my great experience with the company, either the complaints had been attended to, perhaps a change in staff had occurred, or maybe someone was just having a bad day.

In the end, even after seeing a low review score, I decided to go with this company based upon my experience and several interactions with the owner and his staff, because all had been positive and met my expectations. Once I’m settled into my home and have a little more experience with this company, I will leave a review detailing my experience. I’ll also let them know they may want to take a look at their online reputation so they don’t lose potential clients.

On the flip side, what businesses need to consider is how many consumers will see a low review score and not even bother contacting the business in the first place. A restaurant, salon or hotel with low review scores likely won’t even be contacted by consumers. They will move right along to the next business without even thinking about it, because why should they bother?

So what’s a business to do about negative reviews?

Claim and Monitor Your Review Sites
This seems a bit like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses have not claimed their business on review sites. Additionally, it’s easy for listings to be added, so make sure you’re Googling your business monthly to find new listings or use a reputation monitoring service. Setting up Google Alerts for your business is another great way to get immediate notifications of anything being said about your business online.

Read & Respond to Reviews
Not everyone who leaves a review is disgruntled; oftentimes the feedback left can be valuable to improving your customer service and processes. If you see a pattern, perhaps several complaints about a particular employee or wait time, this is definitely something to investigate.

I’m a huge proponent of responding to all reviews as well. Not only is this a way to thank your reviewers for taking the time to provide feedback, it can potentially encourage your reviewers to be more honest. If a business doesn’t monitor their review sites, reviewers feel more comfortable bashing the business because there appear to be no repercussions or accountability. However, when businesses respond to reviews, the reviewer knows their feedback is being read, so they may be a bit more honest, especially if the business is offering to right the situation.

Not sure how to respond to reviews? Check out my article here!

Encourage More Positive Reviews
The best way to counter negative reviews is with more positive, legitimate reviews. Make sure you have a process in place to encourage your customers to leave reviews, whether it’s follow-up emails, calls, signs around your business – whatever works best for your industry. Do not pay for reviews or have your employees post reviews as if they were customers – these are obvious to those reading your reviews and violate most review site policies. But if you’re regularly asking customers for reviews, especially happy customers, you’ll see an improvement of your review site score.

Remove Reviews That Violate Review Site Policies
I am very against the idea of removing legitimate reviews. However, there may be times when a reviewer goes above and beyond to try to destroy your business. Perhaps they are a disgruntled customer, legit or not, or even a competitor. I would recommend first reaching out to them to try to resolve the conflict in a professional manner, however if that does not work and their review violates the review site’s policies, you can get the review removed in most cases. This is typically a rare occurrence, but one to keep in mind.

Additionally, your business may receive reviews that are for a different company. This can happen to businesses with similar names or chains. If that happens, you may also have those reviews removed. Keep in mind, removing reviews is likely rarely to ever happen and should not be considered a solution to negative reviews.

If you are not monitoring your review sites, you are doing your business a huge disservice and potentially losing a lot of business to your competitor. By taking just a few minutes each week to check and respond to your reviews, in addition to encouraging customers to leave reviews, you can see your review scores increase as well as your business.

Is Your Dealership’s Online Reputation Ruining Your Business?

Is Your Dealership's Online Reputation Ruining Your Business

When was the last time you Googled your dealership? Has it been a while? How did your reviews look? Think about the last time a potential customer Googled your dealership. Probably today. And their decision on whether to contact you or not is based on your reviews.

Check out these statistics from a 2014 survey:

  • Nearly 90% of consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business and 39% do so on a regular basis
  • 85% of consumers will read up to 10 reviews before deciding whether a business is trustworthy
  • 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

The majority of consumers are deciding whether or not they trust you to do business with before they’ve even talked to anyone at your dealership. And if your online reputation is poor, you may never get the chance to do business with them.

Protecting Your Reputation

If your company’s online reputation could use improvement, don’t just sit back and hope it improves. Here are a few steps you can take today to protect your online reputation:

Claim your online listings. If you haven’t done so already, Google your dealership to view and claim online listings for your business. There are also services that will assist you for a fee. Why is this important? So you have control over your online representation. You wouldn’t want a rogue employee or competitor managing your review site. By claiming your online listings, you can ensure each has accurate business information and branding. I recommend adding all of these to a spreadsheet for easy management.

Respond to all reviews. This shows consumers that your business is paying attention to what customers are saying and is taking responsibility for righting any wrongs, when possible. Not sure how to respond? Here’s some ideas. Also, if unhappy customers know that you read and respond to reviews, they may decide to be a bit more honest and open to working with you on a resolution rather than just bashing your business.

Have false/defamatory/wrong reviews removed. Consumers understand that not all customers are going to be happy with a business, so negative reviews serve the purpose of legitimizing your reviews so it’s not just all positive. Experiences aren’t always perfect and consumers can usually pick out when a reviewer is exaggerating or being unreasonable. However, if the review is completely false, violates the review sites policies or is for a completely different business, have that review removed. Each review site is a little different, but should have a help section detailing how to get these types of reviews removed.

Encourage positive reviews. People tend to tell twice the number of people about bad experiences versus good experiences, so if you know a customer had a great experience, ask them to please leave a review. This can also be a good time to promote a referral program. If the customer does leave a positive review, be sure to thank them for it.

Field negative reviews. It’s great to get positive reviews, but negative reviews provide the opportunity for improvement. When a customer shares a negative experience with your business, that allows the company to make changes to improve the experiences of other customers. Have a process in place to handle negative feedback, either by sending a feedback form out after every visit to encourage customers to send that feedback directly to your staff (and not on a review site) and be sure to follow-through with trying to improve the customer’s opinion of your business.

Ask customers to update their review once resolved. If a customer leaves a negative review about your business online and you resolve the situation to their satisfaction, it’s completely acceptable to ask them to update their review with this information. Updating reviews can be more helpful than deleting because it shows that you took the time to ensure this customer was happy.

Set up a Google Alert for your business. A simple way to stay on top of your company’s online reputation is to set up a Google Alert to notify you of online mentions. Be sure to include any variations of your business name and set it up to receive daily or instant notifications.

Track results. Don’t just take my word for it, create a baseline of your review site scores and track your score monthly to see progress. Need to improve a score on a particular site? Send happy customers there to leave reviews!

These steps may seem like a lot, but once you’ve claimed your listings, spending just a few minutes each week to read and respond to reviews is going to pay off in a major way as your online reputation improves and more online shoppers become your customers.

Want some help managing your dealership’s online reputation? Click here to learn more.

How to Share Reviews on Social Media So People Actually Read Them

As a business with a web presence, one of the best things you can do is get positive reviews. This is because 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business. Once you get positive reviews, your social strategy should include occasionally sharing these reviews to let your fans and followers know how happy your customers are.

But there’s an effective and ineffective way to do this, and unfortunately, I’ve been seeing much more of the latter than the former. It can be very beneficial to toot your own horn, but you’ve got to put a little effort into it so it sounds less like bragging and more like a personal recommendation.

For example, if you follow any dealerships on Facebook, chances are you’ll occasionally see the following post: “We just received a 5 out of 5 customer rating on DealerRater.” If you Google that exact phrase, there’s over 11,000 results. So if you’re doing this, you’re not alone; but you’re not helping yourself either.

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When I see that post, I immediately ignore it because I guarantee you whatever comes up next in my Facebook feed is more interesting than that. And who cares? Good for them, right? I’m expected to click a link to read a review when I could be looking at something much more exciting. So there’s the key – share your positive reviews, but make sure your reviews are interesting and attention-getting.

Here’s how:

  • Include a quote from the review highlighting the best part: “They spent a great deal of time, not only finding the vehicle that best suited my needs, but thoroughly explaining my financial and warranty options!” Whether or not the viewer clicks on the link to read more, you’ve shown them the best part of the review, which is the point of sharing reviews.
  • Thank the reviewer in your post: “Thanks for the great review, Joe!” This not only makes you look good because of the review, it also makes you appear courteous and appreciative. You’re also crediting someone else for the review which is essential because 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. By sharing a review and crediting the reviewer, you just turned your marketing message into a trusted, personal recommendation.
  • Customize the post: “We hope you enjoy your new Escape!” This makes your post look less cookie-cutter and more sincere, like you’ve built a relationship with this customer.
  • Include a photo: photos are the most engaging content on Facebook with an 87% interaction rate! But don’t just include the default review site logo, make it something interesting and engaging:
    • Customer photo – if you were fortunate enough to get a photo of the customer with their new vehicle and have permission to post it, share that photo with the review! This serves as “proof” that the review is legit and is highly engaging, especially if other fans know the customer.
      • Note: in my personal reviews of multiple dealer Facebook posts in which dealers shared customer photos, 60-80% of the most engaging posts over a 30-day period were customer photos.
    • Vehicle photo – another option is to share an engaging, stock photo of the vehicle the customer purchased.
    • Thank you – what better way to show your appreciation than to publicly thank the customer? I recommend using a free and easy graphic design site such as Canva to create your own graphics and customize them with your logo. This way you’re creating your own graphics and not using someone’s copyrighted images.

Takeaways:

  • Sharing reviews is an excellent way to turn your marketing message into a trusted, personal recommendation
  • Quote the highlights of a review in your post to “force” fans to see what’s being said about your business, even if they don’t click through to read the entire review
  • Customize and credit reviews whenever possible
  • Always include relevant photos when sharing reviews, either a customer photo or a “thank you” image

A Simple Facebook Marketing Trick to Target Inactive Customers

Anyone who’s worked for a successful business knows that it’s much easier and cost-effective to keep current customers versus trying to gain new customers. While there should always be a focus on getting leads and acquiring new customers to grow the business, many companies forget the simplest way to keep a successful business is repeat customers.

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The Stats

According to KBB.com, vehicle retention is at an all-time high with Americans keeping their new vehicles for nearly 6 years and pre-owned vehicles for more than 4 years. If your dealership is only focusing on vehicle sales and not service, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Depending on mileage, vehicle owners typically require service multiple times per year, whether it’s oil changes, new tires, parts replacement or other services. What they may not know is how affordable dealership service can be. Independent oil change and repair businesses make dealerships out to be expensive and unreliable when in fact, technicians at dealerships are factory-trained and are constantly working on the vehicle makes they sell. It’s actually quite logical for vehicle owners to have their vehicle serviced where it was purchased.

So, how can you get customers to come back to the dealership? Is this something your dealership is currently doing or is the focus on new customers?

How Are You Currently Advertising?

Your dealership is probably emailing any customers with email addresses. And so is the OEM and any other business that has gotten their email address. And they are very likely ignoring all of those emails or marking them as spam.

But you’re advertising on TV right? Do you pay attention to commercials on TV? Do you actually watch live television or do you DVR it or watch it on demand? Or do you watch TV at all? Technology has made it very easy for consumers to avoid commercials, so yours may very well not even be seen, and further – how do you know your customers are even seeing your TV commercials?

Billboards? Newspaper ads? Again, specific targeting is nearly impossible and with newspapers dying out among the younger generations (and in general) and so many distractions while driving, people aren’t noticing traditional advertising as much.

Where are people spending their time? On social media.

According to Pew Research, 71% of internet users use Facebook, a statistic that has held steady and one of the fastest growing demographics on Facebook is users age 65 and older. 70% of Facebook users engage on the site daily and 45% use it multiple times a day.

So why not target your customers on Facebook?

Advertising on Facebook is very inexpensive and Facebook allows for very specific ad targeting. Polk data allows advertisers to target Facebook users who are in the market for vehicles with targeting specific down to make, models and vehicle condition. Even with this specific targeting, you’re missing out on the number 1 best market: your previous customers.

But there’s a solution for that.

Facebook also allows advertisers to create custom audiences to target advertising to. Where this benefits dealerships is the ability to target service customers who haven’t serviced their vehicle at the dealership recently.

Here’s how to target your previous service customers who have not come in recently:

  • Export a list of your service customers who have not serviced their vehicle at your dealership in the last 6-18 months (be sure to include their email addresses & cell phone numbers in the export file)
  • Use this list to create a custom audience in your Facebook ads manager
  • Create relevant service ads and offers targeting your custom audience
  • Track the success of your campaign two ways each month:
    • Export a list of service customers over the last month and compare to your previous customer list to see if any of the previous customers you targeted on Facebook came in
    • Have your team keep track of all customers using a Facebook offer (although keep in mind, this is only as successful as your team’s diligence in recording this information)
  • Repeat each month, creating new audiences and ads to continually target previous customers

Bonus Tip: Have Your Employees Share Service Content with Their Facebook Friends

If you weren’t aware, Facebook has been taking measures to encourage paid page advertising by decreasing the percentage of posts that are seen by page fans. So if your Facebook page has 1,000 fans, chances are only 20-40 of your fans will see that post, unless you pay to boost the post. However, if an employee with 400 friends shares that same content, about 280 of their friends will see it. This doesn’t cost anything. Furthermore, since the employee’s friends got a reminder that the employee works at your dealership, they are much more likely to visit your business because they know someone working there.