Online reviews may be scaring traffic from your doors
Liz Hochstedler, Associate Editor - Powersports Business
April 16, 2012
Filed under From the Editors
“Horrible service.” “This place is a total joke.” “Absolutely horrid customer service.” If you heard these phrases spoken about your dealership, you’d likely be shocked and feel a call to action. Yet these comments are being made, and not in private, but online.
While Googling a dealership lately, I found it easily on a search page, but just before I clicked on its website, something else caught my eye -- a two-star rating out of a possible five stars on its Google Places page. This blew my mind, so I clicked on the link that said the average of 11 reviews of the dealership brought the two-star assessment.
What I found on the page was shocking. Yes, there are two five-star reviews from long-time loyal customers. However, those voices are drowned out by nine one-star reviews. “Any reputable company that authorizes this place as a dealer has obviously not checked it out or has very low standards,” reads one review. Another says, “Service was horrible, I don't recommend them at all.”
I’m not pointing this out to knock this specific dealer. In fact, I found an average 1.5-star rating and a two-star rating at two dealerships that I was pretty surprised to see them from. “If you like the used car salesman approach, you'll like this place,” a review of one of the dealerships said. “I'm done with them, I wouldn't buy a shoelace from them at this point,” read a scathing review of another.
These dealerships could have high-ranking customer service; they could be top local performers, however, people like to complain. It’s seldom that someone will be so fired up about a retailer that they’ll rush online to write a positive review. On the other hand, if they’re angered, it doesn’t take much to funnel that ire into a detailed one-star rant about their experience.
So what’s a dealer to do? First, Google your dealership and take ownership of your Google Places page. Any business can add its address, phone number, website, hours of operation, photos and videos free of charge. Then monitor the page. There’s a box under “Edit this place” that allows anyone from the dealership to receive email alerts of updated comments on each Places page. Third, encourage loyal customers to post positive reviews. As we learned in Neil Pascale’s column in our March issue, writing fake reviews is illegal and costly if caught, but giving a nudge to your twice-monthly shopper could encourage goodwill on your site.
Finally, be active in responding. It’s not hard to figure out who wrote some of the reviews. For example, an April 4 review of one dealership from a user named Tom mentioned what type of work the dealership had done and how much he spent. Most customers likely post their frustrations within days of their visits, and a quick search in the DMS or a chat with the service staff could probably narrow down the identity of the dissatisfied party. Once that’s discovered, work to reconcile the issue with the customer. I recently wrote a story about service recovery that can be read here. Any issues should be addressed, preferably off-line, by a call from a service writer or someone in upper management before it becomes a larger issue. To avoid mentioning the review, simply call to ask for a customer’s feedback, especially seeking opinions on what they deemed were problem areas.
Your reputation as a dealer is an integral part of staying in business, and once it gets tarnished, it can be hard to recover. Staying proactive might secure the future of your dealership.
Liz Hochstedler is the associate editor of Powersports Business, a trade magazine for the powersports industry. She reports on the powersports industry through Powersports Business’ varied media, including in the magazine and online. She assembles the brand’s twice-a-week e-news and handles a variety of assignments for the magazine. Powersports Business is known for its exclusive national dealer surveys, in-depth industry analysis and dealership conference, Profit Xcelerator.