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Here is a recopy of the article I wrote that is published in the most recent edition of the Dealership Innovation Guide. Let me know what you think...
It’s no secret, nor should it come as any surprise to anyone reading this that on-line reviews are having a much larger impact on consumer’s purchasing decisions. If I look to my own life, I use them in everything I do, from downloading a new app for my phone to choosing lodging accommodations or simply where to eat.
On the sales side of any given dealership more often than not, operators are expending more and more of their resources; both money and time, in an effort to get their consumers to respond to and answer positively the manufacturer survey. Multiple phone calls, e-mails and letters are scheduled touting the importance of returning the survey. In fact in many instances the customer may begin to feel that our emphasis is on the survey rather than their true satisfaction.
The most common justifications I hear to bad CSI is, “well, most of our customers are happy but only the people who are ticked-off bother to return it”. So how can we as dealers cheaply and positively impact our on-line reputation?
Here are some simple, low cost alternatives that yield a high number of positive reviews by pro-actively seeking true satisfaction.
On any given day there are more RO’s written on the Service Drive than vehicles sold or even live traffic in the showroom. These customers give us a wealth of opportunity to gain reviews, create loyalty and improve our on-line reputation. By engaging these customers in simple ways every Dealer can enlist these people as advocates to our reputation management process.
1. “The buzzer” – Everyone has gone to a restaurant and endured the wait patiently without badgering the hostess because upon entering they were given a cute little disc that they were assured would buzz them when their table was ready. Yet upon reading restaurant reviews, the focus is always on the service rather than the fact that they were left sitting without knowing whether their table was ready or not. I’ve never read “nobody kept me apprised of whether the waiter was done with the customer before me” or “I didn’t know what was going on until I complained and they told me I would be seated shortly”. If upon entering the Service Drive, every customer was given this simple device and told that upon it’s activation, they could make their way to the cashier who would go over their bill and have the keys to their car it could alleviate the time consuming inquires that plague every writer and cashier and hence speed up the entire process. This could be multi-purposed to summon customers to a separate area to go over their inspection sheet and up-sell services. The privacy thereby provided would keep the surrounding customers from listening in and steeling themselves to say “NO”. It also would allow the Service Writer to address the customer’s true objections in a more private setting. It also would allow discretionary discounting of services for individual customers without setting a precedent for others to attempt to follow, expecting the same if not greater reductions. When the service writer closes the RO buzz your customer and meet them in the cashier’s office. No more going into the waiting area where inevitably 1-2 other customers request “can you tell me what’s going on with my car?” The simple re-assurance of seeing others getting “buzzed” let’s everyone know they are not forgotten and that progress is being made.
2. “Flip it”- Have a CSR assigned to the waiting area with a flip cam or other recording device that allows him/her to record customers and guide the conversation. “Why do you like servicing your car here?”, “What do you think of our waiting area?”, “Tell me who your advisor is and how long have you been coming to them/here?”, “How do you like your current vehicle?” These are all questions that can elicit very positive responses. Have the customer sign a quick release allowing you will upload their video and then tag it appropriately. Have a viewing station that is set to your YouTube channel or website so they can immediately see themselves. People love to know they are valued and get to appear in one of your “commercials” better yet you will quickly build a large library of positive video reviews that can be used across wide mediums and with great impact.
3. “The hotline”- Get an old courtesy phone, white not red, which is strategically placed in your waiting area. A large sign above it can read “If you are not receiving the level of service you expect please tell us now, signed the GM or Service Director. Have the phone ring to your BDC, Service Manager, G.M. or Customer Service Representative (that you probably have making outbound calls to yesterdays closed RO’s customers) and have them immediately respond! It’s better and probably less expensive to head off a potential issue than to try and correct it later.
4. “Review Us”-Set up a computer that is fixed onto the review site you need the most help on (in other words has a disproportionate amount of negative to positive reviews) and ask people “While you’re waiting please take a moment to share your opinion” monitor the site in question and if a poor review pops up address it immediately! This could/should be right next to your “hotline” as disgruntled customers will pick up a phone before bothering to post an on-line scorching. In a worst case scenario you get a negative review that you can at least get amended to reflect your amazing response to their posted concerns.
Building these types of customer-centric focal points into your Service Processes is much cheaper and easier to implement that subscribing to any of the “rater” sites that abound. Especially if you calculate in the unknown amount of lost revenue from your next Sales or Service customer that you never saw because they saw you first online.
Cultures are created by repeated adherence to great processes and no matter how competent you may be, people will not care who much you know till they know how much you care. Sending a message of competency and concern doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to be consistent.