The new reality for car dealerships is one where consumers are highly dependent on conducting their new car searches purely on the Web. First impressions are no longer taking place at the car lot. They are constructed by your efforts to have a positive and informative online presence combined with user-generated feedback about your dealership.
Unfortunately, the car-selling business is often so intense that it is easy to forget how and when potential customers are first exposed to what your dealership has to offer.
Reputation Killer #1: You Are Nowhere to Be Found
This happens more often than it should. Many car dealerships are significantly underrepresented on general and automotive review sites. If potential car buyers are not finding your car inventory, dealership profile, or otherwise direct interaction on automotive shopping forums, then you are missing out both in the sales category and in your ability to grow your online reputation.
Turn your situation around by beginning with auditing your online profiles on key automotive sites such as Cars.com, DealerRater, Edmunds.com, Snap21, and SureCritic. Aside from these, you want to make sure you are listed and active on more generic review sites that capture other niches, such as Insider Pages, Yelp, Facebook Reviews, and Google My Business.
By ensuring you have comprehensive online presence across a variety of sites, you can increase leads through organic search while also setting the stage for new reviews to be added to your profile. To put it simply, if car shoppers can’t find you, then they can’t shop from you. Consequently, you stand no chance of ever getting a glowing review.
Reputation Killer #2: Your Online Inventories Are Incomplete or Outdated
This is the ultimate source of frustration for car shoppers and one that will earn you terrible reviews. Imagine heading into a car dealership only to find out the vehicle you wanted to see is no longer available for purchase. Or, think for a moment about how not having a car listed is simply hindering consumers from ever finding that perfect vehicle that has been sitting on your lot for months.
If you consider that over 90 percent of car purchasers will conduct initial research online, then it is a complete disservice to your customers and a self-inflected pain point to fail to properly manage your online inventory. Take time to have all your cars listed, and ensure that vehicle features, pricing, and applicable promos and dealership incentives are properly listed. A great online inventory is a fantastic starting point to a stronger online reputation.
Reputation Killer #3: You Are Not Engaging or Conducting Follow-Through
Indifference is a big turn-off. If you want to drive customers away, then just make sure you are not joining the conversation. Take time to provide timely follow-up to online reviews by providing a sincere and remedy-oriented response when you have dropped the ball, and offer a heart-felt thank you when your dealership receives a compliment.
Also, task team members to stay on top of forums and Q&A environments to engage with potential car buyers that are still in research mode. Providing initial guidance to customers who have not yet decided on a brand or model may just help point a new loyal customer in your direction. Individuals who are helped from the very start are the ones who are most likely to leave glowing reviews.
Reputation Killer #4: You Are Not Conducting Real-Time Regional Shops and Revising Your Price Accordingly
When it comes to managing your car dealership’s online reputation, pricing strategy matters. Treat pricing the way you would treat stocks. Carefully study what the competition is doing, and seek to deliver a package that makes your dealership stand out.
If a customer happens to purchase a vehicle at your dealership and finds out that someone had a significantly more affordable price for the same model, then chances are you will get dinged with a negative review. A great way to maintain your prices competitive is not necessarily to lower your prices but to include perks and services that increase the perceived value and allow you to solidify your relationship with the car buyer.
Again, don’t let pricing be the root of a poor online reputation. Be proactive in scanning prices, and use tools readily available through review sites, such as Edmunds.com, to understand the pricing climate and decide your strategy accordingly.
Reputation Killer #5: Your Service Department Is Damaging Your Image
This is perhaps the most common pain point for car dealerships. If your service department is dropping the ball, then your sales department will suffer. It is essential that there is parity in the delivery of quality services through the life of a vehicle and across your department.
Carefully scan feedback provided via user reviews, and be quick to remediate complaints by offering restitution or follow-up. A customer who has received superior technical service from a dealership is likely to remain brand and dealership loyal. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity by failing to service what you sell with excellence and commitment to your customers and your standards.
Reputation Killer #6: You Have Not Established Clear Disclosure Policies
Do not take your customers for a ride, at least figuratively. One of the most common complaints when it comes to dealership reviews is failure to disclose features, pricing, or financing details. Make sure you and your sales teams are delivering what you promised and are disclosing all that you plan to deliver. Good training when it comes to disclosures and contracts can take your online reputation to the next level.
If needed, create checklists to make sure everyone is on the same page about the deal. Car purchases are big-ticket items, and customers can be very sensitive when they perceive that you are shortchanging them.
Reputation Killer #7: You Are Loading Poor-Quality Multimedia
Car shopping is a very visual experience. Your photos and videos are setting the stage for a sales transaction and are creating first impressions regarding the quality of your dealership. Use photos that are specific to the vehicle you are selling. Don’t use stock photos. A stock photo that does not match what the car shopper will encounter at your dealership will trigger disappointment. Even when there is no sale involved, you may end up with a negative review from a shopper that drove a long way to see a particular vehicle.
In addition to avoiding stock photos, consider hiring a professional photographer and including at least 10 photos per vehicle in inventory. Interior photos are important, and lighting matters when photographing interiors. Create a visual experience that speaks of quality. If a shopper has a high-quality experience from beginning to end, then your car dealership stands a great chance of earning a superior five-star review. Invest both time and money into having high-quality photos and engaging videos. Your online reputation depends on it.
Reputation Killer #8: You Are Not Connecting Effectively with Online Leads
Many of the popular automotive review sites have options for shoppers to connect with dealerships. Responding to leads in real-time is essential in earning their trust, securing a sale, beating other local dealerships, and conveying a culture of care that will earn you a fantastic online and offline reputation.
A great way to ensure high levels of service when it comes to tackling online leads is to set service-level agreements among your sales staff, or task a salesman to be the online salesman on duty. We have spotted too many negative reviews in association with dealerships that fail to respond to leads in a timely fashion. Neglecting your online leads is bad for business and bad for your online reputation. Work on being the first and the best when it comes to getting back to potential car buyers.
Your online business reputation is only as good as the effort you are willing to make to be an industry leader. If you have not done so yet, then use ReviewTrackers to manage your reviews and feedback in a comprehensive way that takes into account all review sources and seeks to serve reviewers while improving internal processes. Industry leaders do it, and you can do it, too.