If reputation has always been top-of-mind for your dealership, then so, too, has customer sentiment. That’s because it’s your customers’ experiences that establish and evolve your brand’s reputation over time.
Today, your customers’ sentiment is measurable online. And though dealership clients everywhere may challenge the industry by turning to their devices and desktops to voice their opinions and experiences, they also present dealers with tremendous advantages and opportunities to influence brand management and shape digital strategy.
“No one is as deaf as the person who doesn’t listen.”
If you’re not tuning in to what is being written about your dealership online, then you’re not listening to your customers. To get a finger on the pulse of this online sentiment, you must first have the willingness and ability to digitally listen to your customers.
Many of your first-time shoppers, repeat service department clients, and even brand-loyal stalwarts share their experiences on social media, in video comments, on blogs, and on review websites to promote your business, voice their concerns, connect with other customers, or even to contact your dealership. This is critical communication from your customers – your most valuable business assets – available for anyone to see. To use this information to your advantage, you’ve got to listen to it.
It’s not just about online reviews.
Don’t misunderstand, reviews are important. It takes motivated customers, spurred by positive or negative experiences to write an online review of your dealership. But reviews are outliers that establish opposite sides of the online sentiment spectrum.
It’s what’s in between that really matters. Within that spectrum are posts in response to videos, blogs, and forums, as well as social engagement’s tweets, likes, and shares. To truly understand the sentiment your customers are expressing online you’ve got to tune in to both reviews and, even more importantly, the bite-sized pieces of content users are generating within the social sublayer all of the time.
To listen in, you’ll need to invest in software or partner with a digital provider who can monitor the millions of online channels on which people are expressing their dealership sentiments. With a tap on those many lines of communication, you can use this rich information to shape future sentiment and influence business strategy at practically every customer touchpoint – from new car delivery to sales campaigns to community involvement and philanthropy.
Let’s dive into two specific online spaces where customer sentiment is commonly expressed, and where there is opportunity to glean valuable, strategy-defining information:
Forums – These are a dense environment of highly engaged customers and auto enthusiasts, and influencers’ sentiments can shape the reputation of a dealership. With lots of followers, their opinion matters.
As an example, let’s say one of these forum users, one with a lot of clout, had what he or she felt was a negative service experience at a dealership. If this user tells his or her audience about the experience and to beware, then followers will listen. With an ear toward these online conversations at all times, a dealership could use this information to examine their process, and respond, for example, by creating social campaigns to positively promote the dealership’s service center.
Star Ratings – Dealers cannot ignore the content associated with star ratings like those found on Google and Yelp to name a few. Using keyword searches and word cloud analysis allows you to fine tune what a particular review really means for your dealership. Sometimes, there are sub-topics in these reviews that need to be addressed on their own. But the only way to address these ratings is if your dealership is monitoring them in the first place.
It’s critical to know what is the general online sentiment for your dealership. It allows you to develop agile business strategy – one that is both reactive for today’s customer concerns, and proactive for tomorrow’s potential. Listen in on the digital reviews, comments, and ratings that customers are freely supplying across the internet, and your dealership will be well poised to get ahead of the conversation the next time around.
Bobby Bailey is the manager, Managed Social at Dealer.com