We all know that online reviews exist and are a common practice.

Many of us check online reviews ourselves when researching a business or product.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and third-party platforms such as Yelp and Google My Business are popular resources for customers to share their feedback on their recent visit to your website or your store. From the standpoint of a business owner, how aware are you of what customers are saying about YOUR business?

Turns out, whether or not you are paying attention to your dealership’s online reviews, your prospects most certainly are:

  • 87% of consumers in 2020 read online reviews for local businesses, which is up from 81% in 2019.
  • 79% of consumers consider online reviews to be as reliable as personal recommendations from family and friends.*

With the vast majority of consumers checking your dealership reviews as part of their online browsing process, your business gains an online reputation based on how many customers hold a favorable opinion of your brand. The good news is that your reputation does not hinge on the whims of your customers’ feedback aloneーhow you respond to online reviews, both positive and not so positive, has a significant impact on how online prospects feel about your dealership.

We highly encourage you to take the time to respond thoughtfully to every online review that your dealership receives on social media and other platforms. Doing so demonstrates that your dealership values your customers’ experiences, even beyond the initial sale.

Responding to Positive Reviews
It may seem unnecessary to respond to a positive review—after all, a satisfied customer is already happy with their experience. Keep in mind, though, responding to reviews is not just about damage control. It’s good manners to respond to a customer who took the time to compliment your dealership. But even beyond that, you are continuing your relationship with customers and increasing the likelihood of another purchase. Another important reason is that other online users will see that your team holds a genuine gratitude and appreciation for customers!

Responding to Negative Reviews
Negative reviews certainly are unpleasant, but they can also generate positive results for your dealership if you take the right approach. While it may be tempting to sweep negative reviews under the rug and write off those unhappy customers as lost causes, this approach can have damaging consequences for your dealership’s credibility. Remember, the bulk of your online prospects are reading your online reviews, and if they see negative reviews sitting unaddressed and forgotten, they may develop a poor perception of your brand and decide to shop elsewhere.

When it comes to responding to a negative review, the context of the situation matters greatly. We have crafted a few guideline scenarios for common causes of negative reviews, and how you can respond to each:

  • Customer is unhappy about something outside your control: Not every aspect of a customer’s experience can be controlled by you and your team, and sometimes customers have a less-than-stellar experience that could not have been prevented. For example, an unexpectedly busy day could result in extended wait times for service, or a customer may disagree with the price of their visit or with a standard policy at your dealership. Even though you are not at fault for their disappointment, we encourage you to submit a sympathetic response to their online review. Express your regret that they were not completely satisfied with their experience and invite them to contact your dealership so that you can work out a solution.
  • Customer is frustrated because of a mistake made by your team: We all make errors, and we need to take responsibility when accidents happen. Be transparent in your response by owning your accountability for the customer’s unhappiness and apologizing that you did not deliver your usual standard of high-quality care. Emphasize that your dealership takes customer service very seriously, and invite the customer to get in touch with your dealership so that you can make it right. Not only will this impress other readers, but it might just save your relationship with that particular customer.
  • Non-customer submits a fake review: While uncommon, fake reviews can and do happen. It may be a simple case of mistaken identity—if your dealership name is very similar to another business, disgruntled customers of that business may air their grievances on your page by mistake—or your dealership is the unfortunate victim of a malicious internet troll, resentful past employee or unethical competing dealership. Whatever the reason for the bad review, if you know that the poster is not a customer of your business, you can politely but firmly respond that your store has no record of their visit, but they are welcome to get in touch with your team if they truly have a concern that needs to be resolved. Responding to fake reviews assures other viewers that these reviews have no real merit and your dealership has not committed any error.
It’s important to monitor your social pages and third-party reviews sites, as the sooner you respond to reviews of any kind the better brand equity your dealership will have. Even if you know that you can’t resolve an unhappy customer’s concern or change their mind, your timely and sincere response creates a good impression for future customers who are looking at your reviews as part of their online shopping. Prospects are much more likely to trust a dealership that does everything within reason to make every customer happy.

Keeping on top of incoming customer reviews can take time. If your team is busy and can’t keep up with online feedback, get in touch with ARI to learn about some excellent solutions.