Back in the “good ole’ days,” a company’s reputation was dictated by spoken word of mouth. Friends and family told each other about a restaurant they enjoyed, an amazing hotel where they resided, or the plumber who fixed a ruptured pipe on very short notice. Fortunately, and often unfortunately for some companies, those days are long gone. Platforms such as Yelp, Google Reviews, Dealer Rater and Facebook, among a growing list of others, now have complete control over businesses’ reputations. Simply put, online reputation can make or break your business.
Online Reputation Management (ORM) has the ability to either advance a business to the next level or send it into extinction. Most of this depends on how the business handles both positive and negative online reviews from customers. While it’s extremely important to acknowledge all positive reviews, it is exponentially more crucial to respond to every single negative review.
When it comes to the automotive industry, more than 50% of the “road to a sale” happens online, long before a customer even sets foot on a dealership’s showroom floor. Many dealers are eliminated from a customer’s consideration, without ever even meeting in person, as a result of poor online reviews.
Unfortunately, car dealerships already have a much higher hurdle to clear due to false, negative imagery perpetuated by media in the past. Through the work of dealerships, and marketing agencies such as Dealer Product Services advocating on their behalf, these images are vanishing yet dealerships must continue to be extra vigilant in monitoring their reputations while also showcasing their many virtues.
Social media is an outstanding place to start. Platforms such as Facebook are one of the main places where consumers go to share their unfiltered opinions and experiences with friends, family and acquaintances. This is where they make recommendations, upload various content about brands and influence each other’s buying decisions; a staggering two-thirds of consumers will make a purchase based on a friend’s social media posting.
ORM has become so vital within the automotive segment, that some car brands have implemented sales commission structures to include ORM efforts. This strategy will give more weight to online interactions and improve the overall customer experience. Linking great customer service to commissions will give dealerships an extra incentive to take a more holistic approach to the entire car-buying experience.
Whether there are incentives or not, it is necessary for car dealerships, as well as any other business, to be both proactive and reactive when it comes to online reputation management. Increasing customer acquisition, retention, growth and win-back are necessary in taking a business to the next level. Answering every review and going the extra mile to ensure your customers are completely satisfied, will differentiate those businesses that truly care from the ones that don’t. When in doubt, remember these words of customer service expert, Shep Hyken, “all of your customers are partners in your mission.” Be great!