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As I have been working with 20 Groups around the country, this phrase came to mind to describe the state of affairs regarding dealer awareness and action regarding online reviews.
I acknowledge that my expertise only covers a portion of all the tasks and responsibilities on the shoulder of dealer principals so I’m not implying that online reviews are the most important thing to worry about.
I will say that if a dealer principal created a top 10 list to check each week, online reviews would be on the list.
The importance of online reviews is both a cultural phenomena and a search engine reality. Consumers are empowered to use social media and online review sites to share their experience when visiting a local dealership. Google Places and other review sites appear on Google Page One tens of thousands of times a month for basic auto shopping phrases and searches on a dealership name.
The fact that search engines show your online reviews as an “Internet Scorecard” thousands of times a month reinforces the concepts outlined in Jim Lecinski’s book “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth”. Every day consumers are deciding not to shop at local dealers BEFORE they even visit the dealership, place a call, or submit a lead based on online reviews.
I review hundreds of dealership Google Places a month and honestly over 50% of the dealers I score seem “content” that their negative online reviews are not important. This conclusion is based on two things.
First, they have not responded to any negative reviews. Second, they have not solicited any positive reviews.
Dealers who have not put in place an in-store reputation management process are very busy with the hundreds of tasks required to run a dealership and yet they are unknowingly defeating their own marketing efforts.
In fact, you could make the case that their ignorance or lack of action is helping send business to their nearest competitor.
If you live in Chicago, type in Google “Chicago Toyota Dealers”.
How many dealers have over 100 reviews? How many have over 50? How about 25?
Let’s see what the reasonable potential is for a dealership that sells 200 cars a month between new and used.
This dealership will normally see about 5x that number in service repair orders, so 1,000 service customers a month.
So every month a dealer of this size has 1,200 potential satisfied customers but let’s say that 5% were not really “happy”.
That leaves us with 1,140 happy customers a month.
On average you will find that 25%+ of your customers will have a Google Gmail account or a registered business email address associated with a Google product.
That means this dealer has over 275 happy Googlized customers a month in their store that can post a review directly on Google Places in about 2 minutes.
So let’s just say that not all Googlized customers would post a review, and only half would say yes. That gives you over 130 reviews a month on Google Places alone.
Now what about the customers who don’t have a Google email address? You implement an in-store review collection process that allows you to OWN and SYNDICATE your customer reviews. It is 10x easier to get a review from a customer when everyone is hugging and kissing in the dealership.
When you chase reviews once customers leave the store, you have made the decision to increase calls and emails when they are at home or at work.
This may be annoying to the customer. It may impact your OEM CSI calls.
Why? Because the customer who leaves a review for you online based on an email or call, may not want to participate in an OEM CSI call.
They could easily confuse the nature of the call and say: “Hey, I already did a review!” and hang up.
In-store reputation management processes are vital to socializing your website, blogs, and marketing strategies. By owning some of your reviews they can be syndicated to blogs, portals, and even used for Automotive SEO.
In-store processes are cheaper, require less of your staff time, reduce customer irritation and can produce hundreds more reviews a month. Reminder: In store processes also identify problems before a customer leaves the showroom.
Let’s face it, when consumers leave the “buzz” of the dealership they go back to their daily routine.
Yes, a fraction will post a review because they made a commitment in the store to the sales team. Post delivery reviews are nowhere near the volume you can obtain simply with in-store review collection processes.
I recently published a case study showing what 278 reviews on Google Places was worth for a New Jersey BMW dealer.
The 278 reviews generated the equivalent of $9,000 a month of Google Adwords spending.
That does not include the 100+ phone calls that were generated without a click. So, while dealers make sure their showroom floors are clean, their staff are properly attired, their TV ads running and their website is updated with the latest specials, the reality is that hundreds of potential buyers have decided not to call, not to click to their website, or drive in to see that sparkling showroom floor.
The reviews that they found when searching the dealer’s name scared them away.
There were so many bad reviews compared to positive reviews. The owner didn’t respond to the negative reviews so the consumer decided they must be true.
Am I exaggerating? Check out 20 dealers in your area at random and count how many have responded to the negative reviews on Google Places.
Count how many dealers have fewer than 20 reviews and see what percentages of those reviews are less than flattering. Count how many dealers have recent reviews that are negative.
It is time that the automotive industry understands the profound yet simple facts outlined in Jim Lecinski’s book “Winning The Zero Moment of Truth”. Download this free book and read it.
If you like the book, DrivingSales members who are a dealer principal, GM, GSM, or Marketing Director have until Monday to join the Automotive ZMOT Study which starts this month.
Online reviews for products and dealers are an important factor in the sales process. OEMs and NADA need to prioritize dealership understanding and training on proven reputation management processes.
There is just too much at stake to let the number of dealerships I see each day blow up their franchise opportunity in the local markets.
For some dealers, it also means getting back to the basics of providing great customer service. For many dealers, however, they just are not aware of the importance of asking their customers to write a review.
In absence of any proactive measure, the squeaky wheels are the ones that post, even for very good dealerships.
Dealers looking to educate their team on winning reputation management processes and hands on review collection role playing should attend the Digital Marketing Strategies Conference (DMSC) as well as 2012 NADA in Las Vegas.
The DMSC is February 1-3rd and NADA directly follows so you can make one trip out of the dealership for the best training, inspiration, and collaboration in our industry.
If you register for DMSC by November 1st you will save $300 off registration fees. Act quickly since only 150 tickets will be sold. We will have special workshops designed to build the knowledge and confidence to implement a powerful in-store reputation management process.
We will be able to demonstrate in-store reputation management software tools and review syndication technology.
Of course, post sale processes are valuable and produce meaningful reviews, but an in-store process can reduce the nuisance factor to the majority of your customers and focus on only those that chose not to write a review in the store.
Isn’t that model the most efficient and effective to produce the greatest quantity and quality?
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Brian Pasch, CEO
PCG Digital Marketing
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