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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Marc McGurren

Marc McGurren Partner

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The tale of my (almost) lost sale – social media at it’s best and worst.

In the not so distant past I became the proud owner of a BMW 645ci.  As any good new owner would do, I wanted to get it all tuned up, shined up, and touched up at a local BMW dealership.  I did some Googling and thought I had found the nearest dealership to me.  Come to find out – the dealership with the Google Place page that popped up was in fact NOT the nearest dealer (insert head scratch and blog I wrote about said head scratch here).

I finally decided to go to the BMW dealer that was closest to me out of sheer convenience.  All went well and I had a phenomenal experience and will definitely be back to service my car there….or will I?  You will soon find out that I am now thinking twice about servicing my vehicle at said dealership.

A few weeks ago I became the proud owner of a used 2011 Volvo S80 (I know, I know…I work at a GM dealership – but I am a sucker for a good deal).  So what do I do to find the nearest dealer?  Google it.

AGAIN – no Google Place page! (insert head scratch and this new blog post)

I don’t find a Google Place Page but I do find a thread on a BMW Forum from a very unhappy customer that was 5 links down on my Google search. 

What I had soon discovered inside the forum made everything else make sense.   I am not going to go into details about what I found but the skinny is this:  a customer’s BMW M5 was wrecked while in the dealers possession; insurance will only cover part of the damage; customer wants to be reimbursed appropriately; dealer says nope; dealer and customer are heading to court; customer starts thread on forum; dealer’s online reputation goes down the toilet…fast (like the toilets that at certain airports that cause a vortex and you literally almost get sucked down….that fast)

That brings us now back to the reality of the situation.  In twelve months this thread on a fairly small BMW forum now has over 840,000 views and close to 1,600 comments!  I haven’t read all 1,591 comments but what I have seen is something a case study could be written about.

This small community of BMW and M5 owners have literally changed the way this dealership does business.  These are passionate people.  They have nothing in common besides their love for BMW’s and their disdain for how their “friend” has allegedly been treated at this dealership. 

They have banded together to let the World Wide Web know of this dealer’s alleged doings (or lack thereof).   They have forced the dealer to not have a Google Place page due to this community destroying their reviews every time the dealer has tried to put their place page back up.

They have went to Yelp, Dealer Rater, and the likes preaching their gospel of their friend being wronged by a supposedly unscrupulous dealer.

To say that this scenario intrigues me would be an understatement.  I love digital marketing and here is a prime example of how social media and our online reputation can and will effect us as dealers.   Unfortunately for this dealer – it is affecting them to the ‘Nth’ degree.

I don’t know how many customers will see this forum the customer started, or possibly even care, but I do know this:  My Google Place page is my #1 source for phone calls and traffic to my site.  How many calls and opportunities is this dealership missing?

I know that the local customers who have ran across this forum will now think twice about taking their car for service to this dealership.  It has for me.

This dealer’s online reputation is forever scared and possibly broken.  Can and will they ever be able to compete with local dealers now that over 840,000 eyeballs have read about this incident…but more importantly how many more have not even had the opportunity to see them due to not being able to have a Google Place page. 

I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong on this scenario – but I do know this – I am not sure if this fight was worth fighting due to the ramifications that I have since taken place.

Bottom line is this – if you upset off the wrong customer – watch out because they now have the power to destroy our online reputation.  This is social media at its best and worst.

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