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The Right Way to Handle Dealership Negative Reviews

July 11, 2019

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It’s inevitable to get a batch of dealership negative reviews, which can cause a negative impact on your online reputation. In fact, 93 percent of consumers were convinced to avoid a business thanks to a negative review of it.

However, all is not lost with every review. Having a solid plan when dealing with negative reviews can be a major differentiator when it comes time for prospects to compare you to other dealerships. With the right steps, you can use these automotive reviews to your advantage while also improving the relationship with you and the reviewer. Here’s how to do it.

How to Not to Approach Dealership Negative Reviews

To get an idea of how to properly deal with negative reviews, we must first show you what to avoid when responding to less-than-favorable feedback. Take this example from a 2015 article in The Consumerist.

The reader, named Wil, recently purchased his third car from the local Ford dealership where he bought his two previous vehicles. Great customer service from the previous two purchases made him a loyal customer, but his buying experience with the third vehicle prompted him to give negative feedback to the dealership. This included issues such as:

  • The salesman apparently lied about the existence of a false bottom for the center console.
  • The finance and title departments said that it wouldn’t be an issue transferring vehicle tags from his wife’s car (which was traded in) to the new vehicle. However, tag transferring wasn’t possible in his state because each tag transfer needed identical titles.
  • The brakes had a “significant problem” less than 200 miles after purchase.
  • The dealership did not double-check the paperwork, which meant that Wil had to drive back to the location, which takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour with traffic.

The dealership attempted to call Wil multiple times to resolve the issue, but he insisted on email as the main form of communication due to his busy work schedule and the fact that he wanted to accurately document the entire exchange of communication between himself and the dealership.

Eventually, the dealership reached out via email and the two parties worked out the issue with the vehicle tags. Wil also let the dealership conduct the repair service on the new vehicle’s brakes. However, the overall experience still left a sour taste in his mouth – especially when he compared it to his previous purchases at the dealership – and he made his thoughts known in the survey sent out by the dealer.

The general manager then responded to the survey via email in the worst way possible: by telling Wil that he was no longer welcome at the dealership. You can read the response for yourself below.

dealership negative reviews

Image courtesy of Consumerist.com

How to Properly Respond to Dealership Negative Reviews

The general manager’s response should not be how any business responds to any review, especially if it’s negative feedback. Consumers want to see dealers actively engage with customers online, but doing so in this manner will only hurt your dealership. Customers don’t want to go to a business that treats its patrons in a demeaning way; they want a business to listen to their concerns, provide support, and improve the experience for future customers.

By following the steps below, any dealer can save face when responding to negative reviews and still attract customers. Research shows that responding to negative reviews makes it more likely for 45 percent of consumers to visit the business.

  1. Leave emotion at the door: The main reason why the response from the Ford dealership is not ideal is because the message doesn’t represent the business in a favorable light. Instead, it shows a manager who is angry and who doesn’t seem to care about the customer experience. Before you write a response, take a few moments to leave your personal feelings out of it. Your words will represent the dealership brand so make sure it’s written to present a calm and understanding tone.
  2. Address the reviewer personally: Writing a professional tone doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the human side of your response. Start your response by addressing the reviewer by their name, which is usually found above their review or rating. This small detail shows that you actually read their feedback and not just providing a cookie-cutter response.
  3. Say “thank you:” Those two words will carry plenty of weight in your response. Taking the time to thank the review for their feedback is another to show that you see them than just another customer. It shows that you will take their comments to heart and use it to find better ways to provide an exceptional experience to other customers. With the pleasantries out of the way, you can begin to…
  4. Apologize and take responsibility: Don’t be ashamed to humble yourself and the dealership in the response. The reviewer’s time at your location was not reflective of the experience that you want for every customer. Apologize for the lapse in quality and point out that it isn’t up to the dealer’s standards. If applicable, take responsibility for the issue and move on to step 5 below. Otherwise, skip immediately to step 6 to continue engaging with the reviewer offline.
  5. Make things right and ask for a second chance: Every customer is important to a dealership so go above and beyond to make sure that you keep them loyal to your dealership. Depending on the issue, righting the wrong could come in the form of a discount, free service, or even taking measures to better train staff. Use this opportunity to show customers that you back up your apologies with action and encourage them to come back and see the improvements.
  6. Take the issue offline: Make sure you provide a phone number or email address in your review response and encourage the reviewers to discuss any further issues with the dealer in private. This allows for a more direct line between you and the customer, and it also helps you avoid a potentially disastrous humiliation in a public forum such as your reviews page.

Handling Automotive Reviews with Professionalism and Grace

Survey data from DMA in the United Kingdom revealed that 68 percent of consumers use automotive reviews to help make a purchase decision. Even though it’s impossible to avoid a low-rated review you can still use it to your advantage. Show prospects that you stand out from the competition by writing thoughtful and empathetic review responses. Show your investment in each customer by taking the time to engage with them with amazing responses. In return, you’ll get a deeper relationship that turns first-time buyers into loyal customers.

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