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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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It's 2007 and I'm the Internet director at a large, family owned dealership. I type in my dealership's name on Google and what shows up on the first page? Negative customer reviews that say things like ‘Worst place to buy a car ever’ and ‘Manipulative Sales Techniques’! Now the killer was that the dealer group I worked for was not only 100% committed to customer satisfaction, but we regularly bent over backwards to do things right.

It got me thinking – we sell hundred of cars and create hundreds of happy customers a month. Why don't they go online and write something good about us? I was reminded of the old customer service adage – happy customers tell two people while unhappy customers tell 22. However, in the 21st century, the damage of an unhappy customer is far greater.

"Sharing negative customer-service experiences, both via word of mouth and particularly through the internet, has become a powerful weapon in the hands of consumers to damage companies that provide mediocre or bad customer service." -Accenture Study; May, 2007

So I began my quest to change and manage my dealerships’ online reputation. Over the next year I learned a lot and had many failures and successes. But the good news is that the result was a drastic increase in sales and service calls. I will be sharing what I learned over my next posts and hope these ideas and tips save you a lot of time and bring you more business. And if you need more suggestions, please let me know!

Breaking It Down:

What is A Consumer Review?
A consumer review is a review written by someone who either purchased a product or has used a service. Writers typically comment on their experience and offer feedback about reliability, quality, customer service and more. Most of the time a customer can rate the business, typically with stars. (1 star stinks, 5 stars rock). In a nutshell? Good or bad, today your customers can easily write a review about your dealership online - where the whole world can see it.

What is an Internet Directory?
An Internet Directory is the online version of the old phone book. Just like the paper phonebooks dumped on your doorstep, Internet directories typically contain your dealership name, address, phone number and website address (URL). Unlike the paper phone book there are also maps, links to your site, and customer reviews.

Well known Internet directories include Yellowpages, Superpages, Google Maps & Yahoo Local, etc. There are countless more with new sites popping up all the time.

Many Internet directories have incorrect information; it is important to read and edit them to be sure they contain maps, photos, custom messages and most importantly – correct contact info.

What are Customer Review Sites?
In addition to standard Internet Directories there are many sites online for customer reviews. Examples include Yelp, Citysearch, Insiderpages and several auto industry related customer reviews sites. Additional sites are constantly being created to meet consumer’s needs.

Why do these sites matter?

1. You can drive a ton of phone and click through traffic from these sites to your dealership if you correct your listings and gather positive customer reviews. Once set up properly the phone calls for sales, services and parts, directly from the Review Sites, increased by 50-75 calls per month in 2008.

2. Consumers now pay attention to what their peers are writing online. Both JDPowers and Yahoo! have done extensive studies showing that three out of four customers view online reviews prior to making a purchase decision.

3. These sites show up high in search engine results. Try this: Search for your dealership and city on Google. Chances are a review site will show up pretty high on the page. Note: some of these sites have the first sentence of the last review posted show on the search results. Do you really want your customers reading bad things about your dealership on the first page search results when they search for your dealership online?

What do I do first?
My first piece of advice is deceptively simple - become aware of what your dealership’s online reputation is. What do you see when you search for your dealership on Google, Yahoo!, MSN and more? What are customers saying? Do you see negative or positive reviews? Do you see correct or incorrect information? You won’t know what to fix if you don’t know what is wrong.

Do you see a common issue or concern? Address it within your management team to fix any obvious issues.

What do I do next?
Stay tuned for my next post – it’s all about getting started and join my Online Reputation Management Group here on drivingsales.com.

If you have any questions I am here to help! Drop me an email at ask.merla@exteres.com.

Happy Selling,

Merla Turner
Director of Dealer Training
eXtéres Auto

Bart Wilson
I love the creativity. Specials pages need to be just that - special.
Jay Campbell
Great job on this post. You couldn't have hit the nail on the head any harder. It boggles the mind to "Click for Specials" and find absolutely nothing there. Truly a huge opportunity to fix something broken on many dealers websites.

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