Customer Experience

Lessons Learned: Ford Dealerships Mishandle Negative Customer Survey Ratings and Reviews

June 18, 2012

45 percent of customers say they’re more likely to visit businesses that respond to their reviews

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There are several automotive review sites that car dealers, auto shops, service centers, and similar automotive-related businesses constantly keep an eye on: Google My Business (formerly Google Places), DealerRater, Cars.com, and Edmunds, among many others. But if you’re in the business of selling cars, parts, or services, perhaps none of these sites is more important than the survey rating.

Just last week, The Consumerist published a story about one particular Ford dealership, and how seriously – too seriously, in fact – it takes its customers’ survey ratings.

After Wil’s purchase of a new car didn’t go as smoothly as he expected based on past transactions with Ford, he didn’t give them a great survey rating. The dealership manager’s completely proportionate response? To E-mail Wil and tell him that he is no longer welcome at the dealership, and to never come back.

Here’s a screenshot of the dealership’s GM E-mail:

(Image credit: Consumerist.com)

It’s not the first time that a Ford dealership has gone bananas after receiving a bad customer service survey grade. A few months ago – again as reported by The Consumerist – Bob, a Ford Fiesta buyer, was all but threatened by his dealer, who told him that if Bob couldn’t give a “satisfied” rating on the survey he was about to answer, then he may well expect the dealer to stop servicing his car. (The dealer also tried to play the sympathy card by stressing “that a bad grade on the survey could affect the service tech and service advisor’s ‘paycheck and future employment.’”)

Bad Survey Ratings? 3 Don’ts for Car Dealers and Auto Businesses

Let’s check out what’s wrong here, and come up with a list of 3 don’ts for car dealers and automotive businesses when responding to bad survey ratings or reviews.

DON’T…

…tell anyone that you don’t want their patronage, ever. Wil, the customer in the first story, has actually been pretty loyal to Ford. (He was buying his third Ford.)  To be told by the dealership never to come back again – that he is no longer welcome – is bound to do more harm to the business than to the customer.

Sure, it’s understandable that these sorts of survey ratings represent the most important industry standards for the auto world. But these standards are set in order to attract the customers, to draw their attention to those who provide the best products, services, and experiences. Throwing out a customer – loyal or not – completely defeats the purpose of trying to generate positive reviews or ratings.

…respond to a rating or review without addressing the customer’s issues. Wil’s problems with the Ford dealership had to do with the salesman lying, the brakes being faulty, the tags having to be transferred from an older car to the new one. As you probably noticed in the above picture, none of these issues were addressed in the GM’s letter. The letter was just about how awesome this particular Ford dealership was. (“In 2011, (we were) awarded the Ford’s President’s Award for customer satisfaction.”)

If you receive a bad rating or negative review, don’t react. Respond. Address the issues that the customer is talking about. Resolve problems. Figure out a way to deliver better customer experiences next time. Say sorry for honest mistakes. And capitalize the first letter of the first word of every sentence. (Trust us: proper spelling and grammar will make you look infinitely more professional.)

…blackmail a customer. The second story featured a dealer that could suddenly refuse a customer future service, simply for a bad review. Well, that’s just asking for more bad reviews. (In today’s Internet-driven age, word-of-mouth spreads so fast.) It’s also a way of eliminating future opportunities to positively change customers’ opinions and experiences.

And also: customer experience surveys and standards were never created for dealerships to use these as leverage. The quality of the service they deliver simply cannot depend on what a customer has said about them.

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