For nearly every business, online customer reviews are a fact of life. Ubiquitous across the web and available to anyone to read and contribute to, businesses like your car dealership, are constantly faced with all of the challenges, and all of the opportunities, online reviews present.
On one hand, there’s the challenge of managing them (specifically, the negatives reviews) that are there for all to see, forever. Reviews are typically user-controlled within the domain of the website on which the ratings were written, creating a permanency that might continue to inform potential shoppers’ opinions about your dealership.
On the other hand, however, online customer reviews present you with the opportunity to positively engage with shoppers in a highly visible arena. Using a grateful, acknowledging strategy to say thanks for the positive reviews, and an empathetic, appreciative, and problem-solving approach for the negative ones positions your dealership as one that cares tremendously, values feedback, and is deeply embedded within the digital spaces where potential customers are shopping for their next car, auto part, or service appointment.
Given the importance and opportunity found within these customer commentaries, here are four tips for turning any digital review into a win for your dealership:
1. Don’t use generic responses.
A templated and pre-scripted business response to online customer reviews is obvious when you see one. They’re impersonal, and ineffective. Which is why, whether you’re responding to reviews in-house, or outsource the job to an agency, authenticity is critical. Generic responses to both positive and negative customer reviews come across as robotic and insincere.
Instead, personalize each response. It will take more work to assess issues and respond accordingly, but it will also humanize your dealership and portray it as a business that cares and values each customer and his or her issue. And that’s well worth the effort.
2. Turn an online review into an offline conversation.
One of the best tacks to take when managing negative reviews online is to move those conversations out of the public eye as quickly as possible. Not only does this prevent the potential of further damage to your brand, it also produces a quicker resolution.
Most of the time, you can deescalate the situation or address the issue directly with an email and then a phone call to rectify things. If you reach a resolution, most customers will appreciate your efforts, and may even amend their review.
3. Use reviews to influence change at the dealership.
Like every great business, you’re always seeking opportunities to improve your dealership operations. You can use reviews as a dipstick to check in on customer sentiment and steer future strategy.
If traffic is down in the showroom or service bays, for example, take a look at what customers are saying about your business online. This can isolate the issue, give you an opportunity to respond, and shape the changes necessary to get traffic flowing again.
4. Respond and maintain your search ranking.
Search engines use high-quality content to help determine ranking on search engine results pages (SERP). Timely responses not only show search engines that you’re digitally engaged, they also produce the content they’re looking for to maintain, and potentially boost, SERP ranking. To ignore these reviews is to miss out on an opportunity to increase your dealership’s digital visibility.
When it comes to online customer reviews, you have two choices: ignore them and risk alienating current and potential customers while potentially diminishing search rank; or embrace the opportunities they present to win back customers who wouldn’t likely do business with your dealership again, while also making the search engines happy.
Have an online customer review response strategy of your own? What’s working now, and what hasn’t worked in the past? Share your thoughts below.
Hannah Wright is a senior social media coordinator at Dealer.com