I enjoy scanning my Twitter network each day. Yesterday, I was included in a Tweet from Bob Jass Chevrolet which asked a simple question:
“Who’s the best reputation management company out there?”
Their tweet inspired me to write this post because there are many companies who are offering “Reputation Management” services and software tools to auto dealers. It would be a mistake to hire ANY company or purchase ANY review management software tool without the dealership’s management team’s full commitment behind the investment.
The dealership’s management team must clearly understand the influence that online reviews have on the the auto shopper’s journey and their bottom line. I’m not going to rehash third-party research regarding the influence of online reviews, and I am sure many dealers reading this post have already seen enough PowerPoint slides on this topic.
However, there is a great study to read about the power of online reviews for those of you who need ammunition to present to management. ( Visit: http://bit.ly/IRMSurvey)
Online Reviews Are Your Most Visible Online Asset
I want to take a different approach on justifying a renewed commitment to online reviews. I want to speak to dealers from my practical experience traveling to dealerships in the United States and around the globe. Most auto dealers I speak with underestimate the number of times a month their online reviews are displayed to consumers who are shopping for a local auto dealer.
Type in any franchise brand and the word “dealer” or “dealership,” and you will see a listing of Google “My Business” listings, as shown below:
The reviews shown on this page are displayed to in-market shoppers tens of thousands of times a month! If you don’t believe me, click on the Google+ page link for Honda Auto Center of Bellevue to see how many times their page was included in a search result.
Their Google+ Business page, since it was created, was viewed or included in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) over one million times. Dealers can log into their My Business dashboard to see how many times a month their Google reviews are being displayed.
Google+ reviews are the BIGGEST opportunity for dealers to make a positive first impression online. In fact, the dealership’s Google My Business listing is the #1 free source of online advertising. I bring this example to your attention for one simple reason.
The shear number of impressions that Google+, Yelp, DealerRater, Cars.com, Edmunds, BBB, and other review websites have each month in search results dwarfs ANY investment for online marketing visibility that a dealer makes each month.
Online reputation management is not just about Google reviews. Take any dealership name and conduct a search by adding the word “reviews” on the end. Here is what I found for Prestige Volvo located in New Jersey:
There are nine review websites just on page one – and even more on page two. Matt Haiken, Dealer Principal at Prestige Volvo, has done a great job of making sure all review websites generate a positive first impression. It started with his commitment to deliver an outstanding customer experience which made him the #1 Volvo dealer in the United States. Then it expanded to making sure that people knew about his “experience” online BEFORE they arrive.
Review website listings are displayed THOUSANDS of times a month in Google search results. Consumers search every month for reviews of movies, hotels, restaurants, and goods that they purchase online. Consumer who plan to spend thousands of dollars on a new or used vehicle are investigating dealership reviews.
Does your culture in the dealership reflect that reality? If you have under 50 Google reviews, my opinion is that your dealership lacks the right culture and processes to connect with today’s online shoppers.
The strong influence of these review websites on local auto shoppers and service customers is without question the BIGGEST opportunity or FAILURE for auto dealers today. Their Web Presence Management strategy has to include a realistic process for collecting and inspecting online reviews. In Europe, dealers are just starting to realize the power of online reviews; over 70% of franchise dealers that I inspected on my recent trip to Belgium had zero Google reviews.
Reputation Management Automation Blunders
If your dealership has fully embraced the power of online reviews, then the best manager of your online reputation is yourself.
I know that seems too simple, but 100% outsourcing your online review strategy is a mistake. The dealership must be engaged with the process to define how complaints will be escalated to the management team so that the dealership can improve their customer experience. Dealers also should be thanking customers who post positive reviews, just like a great hotel does on TripAdvisor.com.
One area that must be inspected in your online reputation management strategy is how your dealership asks for reviews and/or how the dealership surveys customers. If your survey process asks consumers to post reviews on Yelp or Google+ without FIRST qualifying whether they use these review platforms, you will be triggering review spam filters on these websites. Your review solicitation strategy should include a question similar to this:
“In the past six months, have you used Google or Yelp to review a local business?”
If the customer does not have an existing track record posting reviews on Google or Yelp, your dealership’s automated survey system should not be asking them to post a review or presenting a link for them to click. Consumers who don’t use Google or Yelp can be directed to other websites like DealerRater.com, Cars.com, or even your Facebook page. If consumers are active on Google or Yelp, only these persons should be presented with a link to the dealership’s Google and Yelp pages.
With your review solicitation process clarified, there are a few online reputation management platforms that should be evaluated, depending on your website platform. For example, Dealer.com has a very nice online review management platform, part of their comprehensive Loyalty Package, but you will need to have one of their websites to use their automation.
Cobalt, now called CDK Global, has an integrated online reputation management services for owners of CDK Global websites as well as a complete package for dealers using non-CDK websites. Anyone who wants to have a robust “universal” reputation management strategy can now turn to CDK Global for assistance.
In additional to CDK Global, another universal management strategy is provided by Dominion’s Prime Response platform which also integrates social media management functions as well. Their platform can be co-managed to achieve optimal results and it is extremely powerful in all that it can do for your web presence management strategy. DealerRater.com also has an online review management software product as part of the 360 Certified Program.
Which ever platform you decide to use, your Google reviews must be increasing each month. Your strategy must connect with active Yelp users. If your Google and Yelp reviews are basically flat over the last 3-6 months, your strategy is not working.
Dealers Are Slow To Embrace Change
This week I conducted a workshop for dealers in the Seattle market. Over 50% of the attendees did not have any consistent online review management process in place. Many of the dealers had less than 20 Google reviews despite the fact that, between sales and service, they had over 1,000 paying customers a month. Bob Jass Chevrolet, who inspired this article, has 14 Google reviews.
More than ever, dealers need to distinguish their business online. Reviews tell local auto shoppers how they can expect to be treated when they arrive. Take a minute to read your reviews on the 5-10 websites that appear in search results for your dealership’s name.
What kind of message is being sent to thousands of consumers a month?
In my book “Mastering Automotive Digital Marketing” I have a complete section of the book dedicated to online review strategies. If you need help kicking off a new culture in your dealership regarding the importance of reviews, ask for help. Dealers can’t afford to wait any longer to get a serious online review strategy in place. It is time to leverage the MOST frequently displayed marketing asset that a dealership has for online shoppers; their reviews!