Just a few days ago, we wrote about Jack Pope, a luxury B&B owner who turned to travel review site TripAdvisor to boost his business’ online reputation and visibility. Today, we highlight the story of another business owner – Andrew DiFeo, auto dealer for Hyundai of St. Augustine in Florida – whose online marketing and reputation management success has been featured recently on industry site Automotive News.
Making sure that customers talk about the business on the Internet
Hyundai of St. Augustine is a family-owned dealership serving St. Augustine, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orange Park and Daytona Beach with quality new Hyundai cars and crossovers. In 2008 – the year DiFeo opened his own store – average monthly sales weren’t all that impressive: about 50 new vehicles a month. A Boston College graduate with background in the manufacturing, service, and retail parts of the business, DiFeo realized that he could improve these numbers and gain a competitive advantage by focusing on digital marketing and online reputation.
“We wanted to make sure that our early customers talked about us on the Internet,” he said in the Automotive News interview. “When people see traditional media for big purchases, it drives them to the Internet to do research. That’s where online reviews came into play.”
Unlike a lot of business owners, DiFeo embraced – instead of feared – the impact of online dealership reviews. He thus aligned Hyundai of St. Augustine with several industry sites and dealership reviews and ratings sites, including: Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, DealerRater, AutoTrader.com, and Cars.com. He also made sure that his sales force always tracked and collected customer information into the store’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, so that “when a manager is making a follow-up call, they have some information to talk to the customer about.”
DiFeo also ensured that he had a base of happy customers, that the business responded to negative online feedback, and that he extracted actionable insights from the reviews in such a way that would help enhance his business’ performance. These turned out to be pretty savvy business moves, especially at a time when 70 percent of car buyers are influenced by online dealership reviews.
“As a managing partner of the business, I feel like it’s important to have someone with ownership in the business handle the reviews, especially the negative ones, right away,” DiFeo said. “(Also), a lot of times we look at (these reviews) as a training tool to find out what customers like about our business – and make sure we keep doing that – and don’t like about our business to make sure we don’t do that in the future. We also look at other dealers’ reviews because you see what customers like about their experiences elsewhere and what they don’t like.”
(Check out: “Tracking Automotive Reviews”)
Seeing the good in the bad
DiFeo has even recognized the importance of looking on the bright side – of embracing the negative reviews. (See: “Look on the Bright Side: 4 Ways Bad Online Reviews Can Be Good For Your Business”)
“We need bad reviews,” he said. “It’s an odd thing, but it adds credibility. We have more than 1,100 reviews on DealerRater.com, and maybe 11 or 12 are negative. If they were all positive, people probably wouldn’t believe them…. As far as getting defensive about (negative reviews), you have to look at yourself in the mirror. It’s the people that can look at themselves in the mirror and be honest and make changes who are the most successful in life. That’s the way we look at online reputation. Does it sting when you get a negative review? Of course, especially for the first few. Then you realize that this is reality and that you’re not going to satisfy 100 percent of people 100 percent of the time.”
DiFeo’s proactive approach to online reputation management and review monitoring has paid off. Hyundai of St. Augustine currently has lots of great online reviews, plus an aggregated online rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars on DealerRater, where it has also won “Dealer of the Year” for 2010, 2011, and 2012. Its reputation on other review sites – including Edmunds.com, Cars.com, and Google+ Local – is consistently, overwhelmingly positive. Most impressive of all? The dealership’s average monthly new-vehicle sales has jumped to 115 as of April of this year. Not bad for a dealer selling one automotive brand.
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(Image credit: Hyundai of St. Augustine Facebook)