They line up like schoolchildren, a solid mile and a half line of end-to-end car dealerships taking up the entirety of a single street.
It's a sight you're likely to see in any number of cities, and it speaks to just how hard it can be to distinguish your dealership from any other dealership on the planet.
Distinguishing the dealership is just one challenge. The other is earning long-term loyalty in an industry where the typical buying cycle is now over 10 years long.
A great automotive industry review management strategy can help auto dealers tackle these problems in a number of ways:
1. Research shows only one thing sets car dealerships apart: the experience customers receive while they're there. Reviews are one of the only ways for customers to determine what that experience might look like in advance.
2. Receiving great reviews means increasing the amount of revenue per sale. At 59%, the percentage of people who choose a dealership based on reviews is lower than the 84% average for all industries combined. But customers are also willing to pay more for a car if they feel they've received an exceptional experience.
3. A customer who has taken the time to review the dealership will tend to be more loyal. They've essentially sold themselves on using the dealership in the future.
It's easy to think reviews are beyond your control. This is only half true. While you can't force a customer to write a good review, you can create conditions which make receiving that review more likely.
What makes a great review?
Before we talk about creating favorable conditions for great reviews, let's talk about what a helpful review even looks like. Understanding the shape of an ideal review carries two serious benefits:
With these benefits in mind, it's worth noting how customers are treated at a dealership is one of the biggest complaints about the car buying process. Any customer who walks onto your lot is going to be asking themselves the following questions:
Useful reviews will touch on at least some of these points.
This one offers a lot of reassurance to other buyers.
This is an especially awesome review because the author cared enough to go back to make a positive update after one year. You can bet this dealership has scored customer loyalty with this buyer.
Here's one that touches on being treated with respect, as well as service after purchase:
While most reviews won't necessarily mention it, making sure your showroom is equipped with some amenities can go pretty far too.
These might include:
Customers expect that the car buying process might take awhile, but they don't want to be uncomfortable and bored while they do it.
Automotive industry review management secrets to scoring great reviews
So now that you know what a great review looks like, how do you go about getting more of them?
First, make a personal ask around the time you hand the customer the keys, just before he or she happily drives off the lot. When you do, choose language that touches on some of these points.
For example, you might say, "If I've given you a great experience today would you please consider leaving us a review on whatever review site you prefer?" You could do the same with other phrases like:
You could also take this time to remind the customer your service department is there and waiting if they need either routine maintenance or repairs in the future.
Similar phrases can be worked into a follow-up email, a task which its best to automate. One thing you might want to do is make sure that email goes out on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, as the data indicates these are the days a customer is most likely to leave a review for a car dealership.
See also: How to Get Business Reviews: Back to Basics.
Make the most of the reviews you have!
Dealerships who respond to reviews get a lot more out of them:
This is an opportunity most dealers are missing as only 33% of them are responding to reviews.
For best results, respond politely and not defensively to negative reviews. Demonstrate a willingness to resolve the issue.
Keep in mind that a customer can go back to edit and update a bad review on most sites if you impress them enough with your response. To do this you need to respond on the site, but you also need to contact the customer and fix the problem.
This was probably a 1-star review before the dealership addressed the issue.
Responding well isn't just about the negative reviews. You also need to thank the customers who leave great ones.
After all, the customer has done you a favor by writing a good review. The least you can do is say thanks!
Where to Focus Your Review-Gathering Efforts
There are a plethora of dealership review sites out there, but four stand out.
First, let's talk about Cars.com. Studies show it's the #1 car review site, with consumers turning to it first 61% of the time. This makes sense, as the site shares current inventory on the same page as the reviews.
It's also possible for customers to research the specific make and model of each car right on the site. They can compare pricing data right on-site too. It wouldn't hurt to send the bulk of your reviewers right here, something you can easily do with Grade.us, which helps you funnel happy customers to the review sites that will help you most.
DealerRater and Edmunds are other high traffic review sites in the automotive industry. Not only is DealerRater very popular, but they also gives out annual awards which can serve as a selling point for your dealership. The rewards are 100% linked to the number and quality of the reviews you receive on this site.
Pro Tip:If you win a Dealer Rater or similar award, go right ahead and boost your online reputation by putting out a press release about it.
Of course, some of the sites you'll want to target don't have anything to do with cars. You'll want to pay particular attention to Facebook. 38% of millennials are consulting social media sites, not review sites. Forget all the doom and gloom about millennials killing entire industries while shamelessly snacking on avocado toast. Millennials are buying roughly 4 million cars on an annual basis, and represent the largest living population in the US.
Keep in mind Facebook "reviews" are now Facebook "recommendations." Someone is not likely to click on a link marked "recommend" if they don't have something nice to say. You can put together a strategy to get Facebook recommendations
Finally, of course, there's Google My Business, which almost no industry can afford to neglect. While most customers go to car-specific sites first, it never hurts to get that review-based ranking boost in Google Maps, and plenty of customers will both write and read reviews there.
Reviews create a cycle, but you have to close the loop.
The cycle looks something like this:
If you don't close the loop by "wowing" Customer B too, you've just tanked the whole process. Customer B either won't review you, or will leave a nasty review instead.
You can't treat the process of getting reviews like it's some sort of trick or gimmick. You have to genuinely deliver a fantastic customer experience to make any of this work at all. So when you get a good review, really analyze what went right in that interaction so you can do more of it. When you get a bad one, pinpoint what went wrong so you can fix it.
Engage with the cycle correctly, and those dealerships to the right and left of you won't hurt you much.