03/31/2020 10:00 am | BY GWC Warranty

A Dealer’s Guide to Online Reputation Management

Having a digital marketing plan in place for your dealership is crucial. But to succeed in a market where ninety-five percent of consumers use information they find online to make purchasing decisions, your plans have to go beyond website development, video messaging, and social media.

There’s no doubt that online reviews shape consumer behavior. And with over half of 35-54 year-olds reporting that they always read reviews compared to just twenty-eight percent in 2018, they’re becoming more and more of a deciding factor.

Reputation management needs to be top of mind for any dealer, but a positive online reputation requires some upkeep. Maintaining the advantage over your competitors in an online arena can be stress-free once you’ve got a game plan.

Here are some key components to consider as you begin to take control of your online reputation.

Request Reviews. The average consumer reads ten reviews before feeling like they can trust a business. With your reputation on the line, you can’t just wait for new reviews to pop up. Plant the seed as you hand over the keys, telling buyers that you value their feedback and would appreciate if they’d share their experience online.

Recent customers are most likely to remember the details of their experience, so don’t forget to reach back out to them shortly after the sale. Calling or sending an email to congratulate them on their new vehicle is an excellent opener to ask for a quick testimonial that you can share with their permission.

Encouraging feedback can also help you map out ways to improve your customer experience and gain the upper hand in situations where the sales price or other benefits may not be enough to differentiate your dealership from the one down the street.

Do Your Research. Where are people talking about your dealership—and is the conversation happening where you want it to be?

Google, Facebook, and Yelp may be the usual suspects, but when you’re viewing things through the lens of prospective buyers, it’s essential to consider the auto-specific sites they’re spending time on during their search. Websites like Cars.com, DealerRater.com, and Edmunds.com offer consumers the opportunity to review dealerships that they’ve done business with recently. Taking the time to search and make a list of all the possible places your name might appear will make reacting and responding to comments that much easier.

But there’s one place that often gets overlooked when scouring the web for mentions. One of the best ways to have a say in what customers are reading about you is through your own website. A testimonial page or links to review sites allow you to broadcast your feedback, showing how much you value hearing from your customers.

Customer experience matters when there’s a significant investment at stake. If buyers felt like their best interests were considered during the sales process, you want future buyers to know about it. Make sure your site features a place where customers can leave feedback. Serving up curated, personal stories from happy customers can make all the difference.

Have a Response Protocol. Auto dealership reviews influence sixty-five percent of consumers, meaning it’s the third-most affected industry when it comes to reviews. With so many buyers actively reading customer comments before visiting a dealership, the way you handle any negative reviews can have a significant impact.

Customers write reviews not just to influence other consumers, but to get the attention of the dealership itself—and they expect a quick response. Fifty-three percent of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week, but a surprising sixty-three percent say they never hear back. Responding swiftly shows customers (and potential customers) that you value feedback and that you’re invested in righting any possible wrongs.

A bad review doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. Facing negative feedback head-on shows you are willing to improve, but having a few rules in place with employees who are approved to address online complaints is key. Remember, what happens online stays online. Avoid getting defensive. Your response is public, so keep in mind that you’re not only addressing the reviewer but also helping buyers understand what they can expect by doing business with you.

Choose the Right Partner. A one-star review a month or two down the road after a sale might leave you scratching your head. How the customer cares for the vehicle, their financing experience, and other factors all play a role in how they feel after they’ve left your lot. But perhaps nothing stands to affect your customers more than the vehicle service contract you provide.

You’re partnering with a company that you need to be there for your customers on their worst days after buying a used car. There’s a mechanical failure, your customer is without a vehicle, and it’s now up to the VSC provider you’ve chosen. Your dealership’s reputation is on the line.

So how do you know who to partner with to keep your reputation safe?

Start with research. If the company you choose comes up time and again as being recommended and respected by leaders in the industry, you can tell that they’ve taken their role in providing a high level of service to customers seriously.

Make sure they’ve got the resources to communicate with your customers clearly. Deals that seem to go seamlessly can turn sour if your customer doesn’t have the support they need after the sale. Whether it be instructional videos for processes like filing a claim or on-demand access to a database of preferred service facilities, your service contract partner should have the tools to make this possible for your customers.

Check their level of expertise—a service contract partner that employs certified automotive experts in its claims department will help keep costs down for your customers. The knowledge to work with shops on finding parts and diagnosing repair needs helps your customers avoid unnecessary expenses throughout the entire claims process.

How a vehicle performs in the months following a sale – and how you prepare your customers – can go a long way toward shaping your reputation. But finding the right partner can be overwhelming. By providing right F&I products, profit-building programs, training and dealership development, GWC Warranty has been able to help thousands of dealers strengthen their reputations since 1995.

Learn more about partnering with us to provide best-in-class protection options for your customers.