The Automotive Industry’s Guide To Car Dealer Reviews

How do manufacturing, sales, repair and maintenance components of the automotive industry benefit from car dealer reviews? Consumer side marketing strategy. Read More...

Are car dealer reviews and other types of automotive related business reviews important to the automotive industry? The knee-jerk answer is an obvious 'yes,' but is that really the case? We're going to find out.

When it comes to the automotive industry,  it feels like many customers already have their minds made up.

If you ask a dealership salesperson or manager, car dealer reviews play a significant role in their industry. Let's first take a look at the online review landscape and whether car dealer reviews can help to shape and change customer perceptions.

What customers think about car dealers and the automotive industry

The results may surprise you.

A recent survey by Gallup found 56% of Americans have a positive view of the automotive industry. This is twice as high as it was in 2009 when the industry's positive rating bottomed out at 24%. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer backs this up, showing steady gains in consumer trust in the automotive sector.

edelman industry trust survey

This is good news, right?

Absolutely, but this survey is focused primarily on manufacturers. It's not a complete representation of the automotive industry as a whole. When it comes to the automotive industry, there is a significant amount of variance. The "automotive industry" typically refers to automotive:

  • Manufacturing
  • Repair and maintenance
  • RVs and mobile homes
  • Parts
  • Sales (new and used)
  • Maritime
  • Leasing and rentals
  • Sales (commercial)
  • Public transportation

That's a lot to cover.

This guide will focus on the consumer side of the automotive industry. We'll look at the manufacturing, sales, repair and maintenance components of the automotive industry.

Remember the Gallup poll above?

That survey focuses on automotive manufacturers. It doesn't really say a whole lot about dealerships or auto repair shops. How do customers feel about dealerships?

How do customers feel about auto repair shops?

This isn't good news, but it's also not a surprise. The average consumer is aware of their vulnerability. Auto repair shops are aware of this vulnerability.

What does this mean?

Customers have mixed perceptions. When it comes to the automotive industry, customers have greater amounts of trust for manufacturers but are leery of dealerships and auto repair shops. As we've seen, the subcategories in the automotive industry each have their own reputation.

Why reviews are important to the automotive industry

These days, customers complete the vast majority of their research online. The Internet, according to AutoTrader's Automotive Buyer Influence Study, is 20 times more influential than any other media source. Buyers are spending 75% of their total shopping time online.

Where do they spend their time? Customers focus the majority of their attention on third-party sites.

Car buyers visit:

Auto repair customers visit:

Here's what customers had to say about reviews in the automotive industry.

  • 56% of car buyers say third-party sites are the most useful sites – 3x more than any other site
  • Car buyers say third-party sites, manufacturer sites, dealer sites and search engines complement each other during the shopping process
  • A Facebook/Accenture study found 63% of car buyers discovered new vehicles online
  • 78% of car buyers surveyed agreed that it’s important for the purchase of a vehicle to be as easy and convenient as possible
  • When it comes to reviews, an automotive report by DMA found there are either no reviews or, what is available lacks credibility
  • 68% agree that they rely on customer reviews to make informed decisions. Increasingly the customers’ voice is more trusted than a brand’s reputation
  • 38% of women surveyed said a recommendation from a friend or family would make them interested in buying an automobile brand they had not previously considered
  • A combined 57% of car buyers stated that reading online reviews from other people who have bought the car would be “effective or very effective” encouraging customers to buy a car online without going to a car dealership

If you've scrolled through the third-party sites I've mentioned, you've noticed that the reviews are hit or miss. While some brands and dealers have a strong review portfolio, the vast majority of automotive businesses do not.

This is an incredible opportunity for brands.

Will automotive reviews give you a competitive advantage?

They most definitely will.

The majority of customers (68 percent) rely on customer reviews to make informed decisions during their purchase. These reviews provide customers with important data on the vehicles, dealers, repair and maintenance shops they choose. Most organizations don't have a strong review portfolio so organizations that prioritize review management will reap significant rewards.

Remember, the customer's voice is trusted more than a brand's own reputation.

Customers have placed a significant vote of confidence in online reviews. In fact, they're largely unwilling to review an organization's claims about themselves until they've had a chance to review their customer's content about their organization.

Here's an example.

Kenar Imports was a well-known auto repair shop in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Their customers were loyal, passionate and vocal about this tiny but renowned company.

Yelp 5 star review Kenar auto repair

These are amazing reviews, right? Now, take a look at the impact these reviews had on customers.

Positive Yelp Review for Auto repair business

See what I mean? These reviews attracted a steady stream of new customers, bringing in more business for Kenar Imports. The data and screenshots show the importance of a strong, balanced review portfolio, and it also demonstrates the advantage online reviews provide. It's a surefire way to attract more of the right customers, leads and sales.

The data supports this as well.

The data tells us customers want to be sold. But they want to be sold the right way, no hard selling, no high-pressure tactics. Customers know they're not as knowledgeable as they could be, so a focus on educational, consultative selling is welcome.

  • A DealerRater report found car buyers are 90% more likely to visit your website and 5.3x more likely to visit your dealership if you have positive online reviews
  • 73% of customers report that they are willing to drive farther for a great salesperson, versus 65% who are willing to drive to get the lowest price
  • 84% of customers indicate that they want to buy a car in person
  • 56% of buyers prefer to negotiate, two of the most influential groups in car buying—Millennials and females—also prefer negotiating over flat-rate pricing
  • 53% of buyers would buy a vehicle more often if the buying process were improved
  • 66% of buyers say that they would be much more likely to buy from a dealership that provides their preferred shopping experience
  • 66% of buyers say that they would be much more likely to buy from a dealership that provides their preferred shopping experience
  • 72% stated they would visit dealerships more often if the buying process were improved

Can you see the difference reviews can make?

Here's the problem. As found in the DMA report above, most organizations in the automotive industry have a poor review portfolio. These organizations have either no reviews, or what is available lacks credibility. That's not really a big deal though, is it?

It's a huge problem.

Research shows automotive brands with poor review portfolios stand to lose a significant amount of business. According to Moz, brands lose 21.9 to 69.9% of customers if you have negative reviews listed in Google's search results. Companies with little to no reviews are quickly disqualified.

The financial impact is significant. This means:

  • Your advertising and marketing is more expensive
  • Per lead costs are higher than they should be
  • Sales cycles are longer
  • More customers abandon negotiations with a dealer or repair business
  • Customers are less loyal and much more willing to switch
  • Your advertising and marketing returns take longer if you receive a return at all

Like I said, a huge problem.

This is why a strong review portfolio is so significant to your automotive business. It's a matter of survival and growth. If you want your dealership, auto repair or leasing business to grow, you need a strong, consistently growing online review portfolio.

How automotive brands should request reviews

Research shows there's a cadence to requesting online reviews. As an automotive provider, you'll want to manage three distinct areas of the review request process.

1. How you ask for a review. Using an autoresponder sequence, you can request customer reviews via print, email, SMS and face-to-face requests. A request campaign with three to five requests is typically appropriate, ensuring that you don't cross the line from valued provider to irritating pest.

2. When you ask for a review. Research from Cars.com found customers are typically more responsive to review requests during business hours. If you're using a review management tool, you can set up an autoresponder sequence to send your requests out automatically.

3. How to respond to a review. According to Cars.com, less than one-third of all dealer reviews are answered. It's a missed opportunity to show customers that you truly care about their experience and the kind of service you provide. Ignoring customer reviews, whether they're positive or negative, leaves a bad taste in the mouths of reviewers and potential customers reading these reviews.

Here are some templates you can use to request reviews from customers.

Dealer post-purchase review request template:

Subject: [Customer Name], did we make you happy?

Hi [Customer Name],

You did it! You just finished buying your [new car]. How does it feel?

I'm reaching out today to ask you one question.

Did we make you happy?

If you're willing to share, I'd like to hear about your experience with us - the good, bad and ugly. I want to make sure we're providing you with the level of service you deserve.

Please share your thoughts [Review Funnel Link] [Your Signature]

SMS: [Customer Name], It's official. You're the owner of a new [make/model]. Congrats! How was your experience with us? Did we make you happy? Tell us here: [Review Funnel Link]

Dealer post-service review request template:

Subject: [Customer Name] how would you describe your visit today?

Hi [Customer Name],

Thanks for stopping in to see us today. I'm glad we were able to take care of your [problem]. Quick question for you regarding your experience.

Did we make you happy?

I wanted to reach out and ask you about our experience with us today. Please share your feedback with us?

[Review Funnel Link] [Your Signature]

SMS: Thanks for stopping in [Customer Name]! Did we make you happy today? We're interested in any details you'd like to share about your visit today. Share your feedback here: [Review Funnel Link]

Auto repair or maintenance review request template:

Subject: [Customer Name] I wanted to thank you for trusting us to take care of your vehicle today. I wanted to reach out and ask you one question about your experience.

Did we make you happy?

Would you be willing to share your feedback either way? No detail is too small or too big. Good, bad, ugly, we'd like to hear it all.

Share your feedback here:

[Review Funnel Link] [Your Signature]

SMS: [Customer Name], thanks for giving us the chance to service your vehicle. Did we make you happy? Please let us know either way. [Review Funnel Link]

See the focus?

These templates are focused on your customer's happiness and satisfaction, the true drivers of a positive or negative review. Feel free to customize these templates, as needed, for your business.

Who should be responsible for your reviews?

There are two ways to approach this. You can make online reviews a marketing or customer service concern. It shouldn't be both. You'll want to give a specific department or team the responsibility for both requesting and responding to reviews.

Ideally, you're looking for an employee with the right psych profile.

You're looking for someone with a significant degree of patience and focus. Don't make hotheads or aggressive go-getters responsible for responding to reviews.

Using reviews in your automotive marketing

As you've already seen, a strong review portfolio provides automotive brands with a competitive advantage. These reviews attract a steady and significant stream of customers. But customers have to seek these reviews out. What if there was a way to win customer consistently?

As it turns out, there is.

Use your reviews in your automotive marketing. With a bit of strategy, the right tactics and consistent effort, you can win customers over before competitors have a chance to get their hooks in.

Here are a few ways you can do just that.

Use remarketing and retargeting to promote your reviews at the beginning, middle and end of your customer's buying cycle.

1. Use PPC ads + review samples (or # of reviews) to capture customers at the beginning of the buying cycle, e.g., 5-star reviews from 567 happy customers in the last three months

2. Remarketing and retargeting to communicate with customers who have recently visited your site

3. Use social proof + a review acquisition campaign via your autoresponder campaigns and remarketing to capture more reviews from satisfied customers

See what I did there?

Using your strong review portfolio, you used reviews to attract customers (away from competitors). You used reviews to convert customers who have recently visited your site and finally, used the power of social proof via your amazing reviews, to get new customers to add their review to the list.

It's a powerful strategy that's difficult to copy.

It's something automotive brands can use to attract, win and keep their customers.

Online reviews are more important than ever before

When it comes to the automotive industry, many customers already have their minds made up. You can't change their minds, but your online review portfolio, the feedback you've received from happy customers, can.

As we've seen, reviews play a prominent role in the automotive industry.

Customers are hungry for change. They're looking for honest, trustworthy and reputable automotive professionals. The kind of professionals they'll fight to keep. Create the kind of experience customers are searching for, and you'll find they'll hold on to you.

With a strong review portfolio and a clear set of strategies and tactics, you'll find it's easy to change perceptions, one customer at a time.

About the Author

Andrew McDermott

Andrew McDermott is the co-founder of HooktoWin and the co-author of Hook: Why Websites Fail to Make Money. He shows entrepreneurs how to attract and win new customers.

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