With the reliance on internet word of mouth marketing growing stronger each and every year, dealers have learned to use this to their advantage to improve not only their reputation, but also their stance with Google. Consumers use online reviews to voice their opinions and experiences, good or bad, about businesses. Therefore, businesses have to be even more diligent than ever when it comes to how they treat people. They also need to understand how quickly negative word of mouth can spread, damaging your brand and your brand’s reputation.

This is especially true for automotive dealerships because people go into a dealership, in many cases, ready to do battle over price negotiations. That means you have to help your customers quickly overcome that mindset, as well as find new ways to provide them with an exceptional customer service experience. Because if a customer has a poor or less than optimal experience, the first place your buyer will go after leaving your lot is straight online to voice their opinions.

So, what can be done to walk that line and build a great online (and offline) reputation for your dealership while avoiding the blunders that could land you center stage in front of a multitude of one-star reviews? Well, you can begin by learning exactly how online reviews work and how to properly manage them to increase your average review score.

How Google’s Search Listings Can Make or Break Your Dealership

People search online reviews looking for previous customer experiences. If they find negative reviews, they often move on to another business that has better ones. Google’s search listings can easily make or break your dealership because when someone enters a search term, Google prominently displays the most relevant local listings for the area in a box near the top of the page. And, right along with those listings, you’ll see the dealerships star rating and a link to your dealerships reviews, so a searcher can immediately form an opinion based on that information alone. Unfortunately, people don’t always take the time to do their own research into whether or not that information is factual or false.

How Google Determines Where Your Business Listing Will Rank

Google uses an advanced algorithm to determine which business ranks against their competition and where on the search listing and maps. Here is a quick overview of some of the key points Google takes into account:

  • Dealership website. Having the right content on your website that’s properly optimized with local signals, as well as target keywords and phrases that indicate relevancy.
  • Links. Having quality, related, local links to your website.
  • Local citations. Your citation profile that has your dealership’s name, address, and phone number showing in the same format consistently everywhere it’s seen.
  • Social signals. The more social profiles you have and the more audience engagement with those profiles you have sends Google a social signal of local relevancy which helps increase your rankings.
  • Review signals. As we mentioned above, Google reviews are the first thing your potential customer sees when entering a search request. So, the more reviews you have, the more likely you are to rank in the ever-coveted Google local search box that’s showcased near the top of the search results.

Steps for Properly Managing Your Online Reputation

The best way to manage your online reputation is to be proactive and stay engaged. Here some simple ways to do just that.

  • Monitor
    You must monitor all your reviews and social media accounts daily if you want to have a clear picture of what’s going on in your business at any given time.
  • Respond
    You should respond to all customer reviews and comments, good or bad, within 24-48 hours of them being posted. And, you should respond authentically, never cut and paste or use the same canned response to every comment, doing so will clearly show every visitor your insincerity.
  • Check Reputation Scores
    Check your reputation scores at least once every month and look for positive and negative trends. This will give you a better idea of what needs to be rewarded and what areas need a little more training.
  • Solicit Reviews
    It’s not only OK to ask for customer reviews, it’s recommended. Always ask your customers to take some time to give your dealership a positive review. At the same time, you’ll also need to state that if there’s any reason they can’t give you a five-star review to let you know so you have the opportunity to take care of the issue first.A great way to remind your customers to submit a review is to give them a small handout along with their keys or signed paperwork. A handout that has links to your Google +, Yelp, and any other social media profiles so they can leave reviews there as well.

    Posting fake reviews could land you in legal trouble with the Federal Trade Commission, as well as other review sites such as Yelp.

  • Assign a Reputation Management Manager
    Assign someone at your dealership the responsibility of monitoring and engaging with any and all reviews, comments, or questions left on any given site. This should be tasked to someone who is specially trained to handle all contacts in a positive, professional manner. If you don’t have someone like that or don’t have the time for it, you may need to consider hiring someone to do it for you. Customer engagement should not be overlooked due to a dealership being understaffed.

How to Increase Your Online Reputation Scores

The best way to increase your average review score goes back to what we mentioned above, which is to get more positive customer reviews. This can be done by providing your customers with something that makes it easy for them to write a review for you. Give your customers clear instructions that tell them exactly what to do. For example, use an infographic that shows them how to set up and log into their Google account and where to find your Google page. Then give them step by step instructions on how to post a review. This handout card, PDF, email, etc. will also serve as a reminder for them to post the review. Then after they post that review you should contact them and thank them for it.

Implementing a Proper Customer Service Program

Providing exceptional customer service doesn’t come naturally to everyone. So, it’s best to hire customer service oriented personalities to begin with. However, for your existing team, and the newcomers as well, you should develop and implement a set standard of customer service policies and techniques that everyone is required to follow. This is the only way to ensure consistency and not leave each person and what they are inclined to say to chance.

If you don’t have the time or experience for this, don’t hesitate to buy a program or hire a professional to do it for you. The money you spend now will pay off in sales, reviews, and a more favorable brand reputation for years to come.

Just imagine how surprised, and refreshed, your customers will feel when they visit your dealership and are treated far superior to anywhere else they’ve visited. In fact, they will remember how well they were treated at your dealership and never want to go through what they had to go through everywhere else. Now you have a customer for life, multitudes of five-star reviews, and referral numbers that are off the charts.

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