REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Reputation.com, provider of the first — and only — complete Reputation Experience Management (RXM) platform, today released an updated analysis of 33,000 automotive OEM brands, dealer groups and dealerships across the United States, Canada and Europe in its “2020 Automotive Reputation Report Update.” In a year dominated by change and uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, consistent and effective reputation management emerged as an important factor in increasing sales volume, inspiring trust among customers and driving operational improvements.
While the economy will likely continue to struggle through the pandemic, dealerships must do what they can to boost sales and reassure customers.
The “2020 Automotive Reputation Report Update” validates that the way consumers are buying their cars has drastically changed in a short amount of time. Many have opted to use virtual car-buying tools and contactless home delivery options, for example. For those that do venture into dealerships, hygiene has been a big concern that is consistently reflected in customer feedback online. In fact, mentions of personal health and safety in online reviews have grown 100X since the pandemic hit. Dealerships have responded in part with valet service, which minimizes customers’ interactions with others inside brick-and-mortar locations. A dealership’s valet service is the No. 1 new driver of positive sentiment during the pandemic, according to the report.
Conversely, complaints about price drove many negative reviews: unfortunately, manufacturer shutdowns due to COVID-19 resulted in a lower inventory of both new and used cars, driving up auto prices. Prices will remain high for the foreseeable future, as it will likely take the auto industry two years to restore sales and production numbers seen pre-pandemic.
The “2020 Automotive Reputation Report Update” uncovers insights from an analysis of unstructured data found in online customer reviews, surveys and more. Based on these insights, OEM brands, dealer groups and dealerships can make operational adjustments to improve their sales and service performance and raise their Reputation Scores — even during a global pandemic. In fact, the report revealed that a 10% increase in average sales volume can be mapped back to dealerships’ effective reputation management.
“In the Feedback Economy — and especially during the COVID-19 era — customers are turning to rankings and reviews to inform their car-buying decisions, making online reputation management more important than ever before,” said Joe Fuca, CEO of Reputation.com. “While the economy will likely continue to struggle through the pandemic, dealerships must do what they can to boost sales and reassure customers. This includes tapping into tools like Reputation.com to help identify problem areas and take action to remedy them, all in the service of inspiring customer trust and improving the customer experience.”
Auto industry perseveres in a challenging economic environment.
The “2020 Automotive Reputation Report Update” found that the automotive industry as a whole continues to excel at reputation management as compared with other industries, although its average Reputation Score has dropped from 603 in February 2020 to 594. This could be a symptom of the general dropoff in review volume (as a result of Google suspending its reviews for weeks at the height of the pandemic), as well as a decrease in review responses. Still, the top dealerships this year earned a Reputation Score of 866 or higher — 297 points above the industry average.
"The Reputation Score continues to be a critical benchmark in helping us understand customer satisfaction, and also measuring how our associates are contributing to the overall experience," said Marc Cannon, executive vice president and chief customer experience officer at AutoNation.
Despite the auto industry’s continued perseverance amid COVID-19, it has experienced some significant setbacks. U.S. car sales have remained depressed, dropping 9.7% in the third quarter. But the automotive industry is tenacious, with monthly sales slowly rising.
“Online reputation is a reflection of a company’s culture. We take tremendous pride in the way our nearly 11,000 teammates serve our customers and represent our values each day,” said Greg Gach, president of Hendrick Automotive Group. “Being recognized with the No. 1 overall ranking is only possible because of their dedication to our customers and to one another.”
Familiar faces take top rankings in U.S., Canada and Europe.
In the United States, Nissan and Lexus again claim the highest Reputation Scores, with 681 and 673, respectively. While this delta in top brands isn’t dramatically large, it does suggest an interesting point: The cost of a car doesn’t automatically mean better service or reputation overall. Let’s compare two other well-known, non-luxury and luxury brands — Mitsubishi and Cadillac — to support this point. Since February, Mitsubishi has increased its Reputation Score by 54 points, due to the brand’s focus on visibility and engagement with its customers through actively managing its online reputation. Conversely, Cadillac’s Reputation Score dropped by 45 points, which can be attributed to a more passive take on reputation management (lower online engagement with customers). That said, many other GM brands have increased 51 points on average over the past two years, primarily due to a concerted effort to manage their online reputations actively.
In Canada, top performers in Reputation Score include Lincoln, Ford and Hyundai, although at 550, their average Reputation Scores are lower than those in the United States. In Europe, Porsche nabbed the top Reputation Score with 664 in France; Mitsubishi was top in Germany, Austria and Switzerland with 666; and Lexus earned the top spot in the United Kingdom with 675.
“We’re thrilled to be the UK’s number one-ranked dealer group for Reputation Score,” said Claire Canard, group marketing manager at Vantage Motor Group. “It’s a great testament to the entire organisation’s dedication and commitment, and speaks volumes for how we’ve embraced our digital front door, and the importance we place on customer feedback.”
Reputation.com’s data science team applied machine learning to unstructured text from consumer reviews on Google, Facebook and other sources for more than 33,000 dealerships and leading automotive brands worldwide. Dealerships and brands were ranked using Reputation Score, a measurement on a scale of 0 to 1,000 that considers a location’s sentiment, visibility and engagement across nine elements: star average, review volume, review recency, review spread, search impressions, review response, review length, listing accuracy and social impressions.
The “2020 Automotive Reputation Report Update” report is now available for download. Browse our other industry reports, including retail, retail banking, healthcare and property management here. For more information on Reputation Score and the Reputation.com RXM platform, please visit our site at www.reputation.com.