Tempting though it may be, engaging in tit-for-tat arguments with online reviewers is never a good idea.  Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Antonio Guillem

Tempting though it may be, engaging in tit-for-tat arguments with online reviewers is never a good idea. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Antonio Guillem

In the highly competitive business environment of managing an automotive dealership, customer service and engagement built on mutual trust and respect is paramount to success. With the majority of consumers searching review sites before purchasing, you need to understand the importance of building your reputation online. In addition to advertising, your marketing strategy no doubt includes using social media and email to inform customers of service offerings, new deals, and more. If you aren’t also sending surveys or linking to positive reviews of your brand online, you’re missing opportunities to expand your reach and generate positive brand recognition.

In fact, you’re missing out on a geographic target market range of up to 60 miles. We recently conducted our sixth annual “Automotive Social Media Trends” study, and it shows that 72% of car buyers and 63% of service customers will drive 20 to 60 miles to work with a dealership with a four-star or higher review rating.

Make It Easy

To implement a successful survey and review strategy that can help you achieve four- and five-star ratings, it’s important to invest in resources to manage them. Surveys should be automatically generated after a customer buys or services a vehicle at your dealership. The easier you make it for them to send feedback, the better chance you have of getting a response.

After the consumer finishes the brief survey, there should be an option to share the review on popular review sites such as Autotrader, Cars.com, CarGurus and Edmunds. This type of viral strategy helps increase the number and frequency of reviews online.

Reviews can also be easily turned into testimonials that can be posted in your own social media channels. When you’re responding to consumers, use these testimonials as proof of prior customer satisfaction to differentiate yourself.

An increased number of reviews will also increase your dealership’s visibility on search engines. Google has a “Reviews from the Web” feature that will display ratings from sites with user-driven reviews, as long as the sites use a five-star rating system. This gives you one more reason to pay close attention.

Don’t Let Negativity Get You Down

In most cases, customers are happy, they just haven’t been given the opportunity to express their satisfaction. If you are afraid of negative comments, you probably have a bigger problem to address. A dealership who shows a commitment to its customers by listening to constructive criticism will garner a stronger relationship in the community, and that will translate to increased positive feedback.

The key to dealing with disgruntled individuals is to acknowledge their complaints and then take those conversations offline. Communicating personally by phone or private message can help defuse the situation and keep others from jumping in. Don’t admit wrongdoing or get into a tit-for-tat discussion — offering remedies online will encourage increased negative feedback from the individual and others.

In this age of mobile computing, consumers are increasingly looking for information online to help them make decisions. Cultivating reviews is a great way to make sure your dealership is part of the conversation.

Alexi Venneri is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike and has extensive dealership digital marketing expertise. Contact her at [email protected].