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Thanks to the plethora of information made available by the internet, today’s car shoppers are excellent researchers. Sites and apps like Yelp, Google Places and cars.com have become key players in how customers make decisions, making many dealerships feel as if their reputations are out of their hands. While it’s true that business owners can rarely take direct control over the content and visibility of consumer reviews on sites like Yelp and cars.com, there are plenty of steps business owners can take to not only leave a positive impression of their brand, but increase its visibility in the marketplace.
Taking control: the sites to pay attention to
Local businesses in any industry can benefit from claiming and creating business listings across as many highly visible sites and social networks as possible. But service providers - especially auto dealerships - should pay extra special attention to their online profiles for two reasons:
1) the more places where the brand is listed, and the more information search engines can find about a business, the more credible it will be considered; and
2) business owners should be in the spaces where consumers are talking about them, and their products, so they can respond to both positive and critical feedback and encourage more customers to leave reviews.
Below is a list of sites which every auto dealership needs to pay attention to:
Managing existing profiles and reviews
Nearly every site listed above allows business owners to claim their company profiles. While this rarely allows you to delete or moderate reviews, it does allow you to flesh out a full profile as well as publicly reply to customer reviews. It’s important to do both.
Company profiles should always include a logo, list of products/market specialties, a full written bio, website URL, contact info and leadership names, if possible. Dealerships should have full, completed profiles in each of the sites listed above, as well as more general business directories like manta.com, brownbook.net and dmoz.org. Remember: the more places your company’s info is listed - including text citations of name, address and phone # - the more authoritative your brand will be in online searches.
Customer reviews should be paid careful attention to, whether they’re positive or negative. It’s important to thank customers who go out of their way to leave glowing reviews, but it’s even more important to quickly address the concerns expressed by unhappy customers. Companies should politely and kindly respond to negative comments, doing due diligence to attempt to right any error on the company’s end and expressing concern over the customer’s experience. Not every customer can be made happy, but as other potential customers research your brand, seeing you’re exercising good customer service with dissatisfied customers will leave a very favorable impression.
Getting reviews that leave a good impression
Once you’ve taken control over your reputation, the last step is to engage your customers. Good reviews don’t write themselves, and the margin of customers who make the effort to write reviews is typically slim, even among happy customers. Dealership owners can do many small things to encourage and incentivize customers to leave reviews - in some cases, before they even walk out the door.
To start, pick 1-3 review sites you feel have the most local value for your dealership, and target the campaign towards those. Place simple reminder stickers, with the logo of your preferred review site, on receipts and take-home paperwork. Provide a desktop kiosk right in the show floor where customers can login and write reviews while they wait for their purchase details to be finalized. Incentivize customers with future purchase discounts or swag, and make it a fun experience with treats and beverages.
Of course, don’t forget the most important factor in eliciting positive reviews: great customer service.
Jeff Dodson is the Founder and CEO of Dodson Auto Group, a family-run business offering automotive professionals everything from forms and direct mail fulfillment to business card printing and payment solutions under one roof. With Dodson, businesses can consolidate purchasing into one single supplier, saving time and money. You can reach Jeff at email@example.com.