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How Online Customer Reviews Are Making Or Breaking You

 

What matters most to your car shoppers? Is it price? Depth of inventory? Maybe – but the Internet has nearly commoditized the auto business. Savvy customers will be able to find the car they want at the lowest price within a few seconds of searching. So where is the competitive edge that draws a buyer to one dealership but not another?

To find the answer, let’s try and think of how a shopper might search for a place to buy their next vehicle. Consumer psychology and common sense tells us that we are more likely to trust the reviews of other customers over a dealership’s Google ads, search result ranking, or any other marketing metric that we tend to emphasize. If I were looking for a great price on a Camry in Dallas, I might search “best toyota dealership texas.” And any search query containing “best” or similar comparative adjectives in it is almost invariably going to display a user rating site like Yelp or DealerRater.

Our evaluation of others’ experiences makes intuitive sense with any high-value purchase or costly service. For example, I recently needed to choose a new dentist. I initially considered using the one closest to my home, for convenience’s sake. However, a high volume of negative consumer reviews changed my mind, and I drove a little farther for a dentist that was highly recommended.

When faced with a choice between two roofing companies to repair a faulty chimney, I didn’t select the one with the most experience, or the one that appeared first in Google results, or even the one with the lowest price. I chose the one that other people with the same problem recommended. I cared about results, about what I knew would get the job done.

And why not trust user reviews? Unlike corporate marketing messages, these previous buyers have nothing to gain by leaving their opinion. They are unbiased, impartial, and – as far as I know – honest. Your shoppers are making the same judgments about your dealership. The simple sentence (and actual review), “AVOID dealership x AT ALL COSTS, THEY ARE LIARS” will do more to your online marketing than any email campaign or advertising effort.

How can you avoid this pitfall? The trick is to get your happy and satisfied customers talking. And Google and Yelp are making it harder for people to leave anonymous reviews. They’ll need accounts with those sites, and their submissions are valuated based on the amount and quality of reviews they’ve left before. But a positive review from a trusted Yelp user is a jackpot for your dealership.

Ask your customers to leave their feedback online. Perhaps you have a computer terminal in your store that customers can leave their opinions on. Consider hosting a service promotion for your buyers that leave reviews. This kind of crowd-marketing is becoming the predominant force behind major purchases – so building up your reviewer rating now will pay big dividends in the long run.

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