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If I pay a customer to say all the right things in an online review, that breaks the law, and we know it.  We know you and I cannot pay, reward or incentivize a customer to write good things about us in in a Google Review, Dealer Rater rating or Yelp! blog.

So, does that mean we shouldn't incentivize every salesperson in our dealership to get every customer possible to rate the dealership online?

In a recent DealerADvantage blog, Jack Simmons, Dealer Training Manager,, writes:

"It’s no secret that individual metrics and compensation play a big role in achieving dealership-wide goals, which is why managers have long tied pay to “hitting your numbers.”  Based on the audience feedback I heard during my workshop at Digital Dealer last week, owners and senior managers are increasingly putting their money on dealer reviews in this way, namely for their ability to help differentiate a dealership’s brand and ultimately drive more sales and service business.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways these dealerships compensate individual employees for reviews success:

1. Spiffs...

2. Optional Bonuses...

3. Mandatory Part of Compensation..."

I get it.

We can't pressure the customer, but we can pressure our own people.  Just like we do for CSI, with comparable results.

The spontaneity of the review process is on the way out, as the stakes get raised.  The thrill is gone.

When customers no longer believe what they read, because the review sites are clogged with the overwhelming sameness of Completely Satisfied customers, by then, we'll all have moved on to the next shiny object perceived to move the search optimizing needle, increase sales and service business, or whatever it was that online reviews were supposed to trigger in the first place.

Views: 655

Tags: CSI, Compensation, Dealer, Google, Motivation, Payola, Places, Rater, Ratings, Reputation, More…Reviews, SEO, Yelp


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Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on April 15, 2012 at 8:40am

Ken, your videos are tremendous, but I like your web sites even more.  Those reviews, for example, are so well presented.  Who is your web site provider?  I noticed they don't credit themselves on your site, just a copyright for your dealership.  Classy!

Comment by Ken Beam on April 15, 2012 at 8:22am

Hey Camille - yep..... we`ve done all of that too. I do indeed feel that you need a "presence" in Facebook, however even by posting the clients picture, to be perfectly honest with you has had zero impact............ but perhaps somewhere down the road it may. Hey it`s all about maximizing your web presence and exposure right?? So why not post them all of Facebook too! So the more the merrier!~ Sprinkle in a little Video Testimonial on Facebook once in awhile won`t hurt either!~

Comment by Camille Forte on April 15, 2012 at 8:10am

Ken, take it a step further after you've taken a picture of the happy customer with their new car (with their phone) and tell them that if they tag you in the photo on their Facebook page, their first oil change is on the house.  User-generated content is gold; what your customers put on their pages about you is 100x more important than what you post yourself.  Remember, at any given time, each one of your customers has about 10 friends on their friends' list who are ready to buy from you today...

...and to Josh; I'm not sure to which blog you're referring, but I will clarify this - I do think it's possible to "get around the system" by saying "thank you" to customers who leave positive reviews, so long as you're not soliciting them to do so beforehand.  If you see a new review pop up and you know which customer it is, let them know you appreciate it, and the word will spread!

Comment by Ken Beam on April 15, 2012 at 7:46am

It really isn`t a difficult task asking for a review at the time of delivery. Customers are excited! Go out and take a picture of the Sales Rep and the customer with the vehicle they are picking up....... (Ask them if it would be "ok" to post it on your website....... generally, customers are "all-in" and will say yes when asked in a very friendly/fun manner) AND ask them at that time if they would be kind enough to write a review for you.

It shouldn`t be difficult for a Sales Rep to get say just 2 reviews each month. I recommend definitely incentivizing the process.......... or possibly tie it in with a bonus program. Why not say you need 2 reviews each month in order to get your demo allowance?? Or perhaps make a rule like this, let`s say you have a $500 bonus at the end of the month for hitting your individual sales objective for each Rep, now you also have to get 2 reviews to qualify for the bonus as part of the monthly bonus mix too. Just make it part of their job to get 2 reviews each month and they will. Pretty simple. We also tie the reviews into each Sales Reps individual webpage;

this allows them to send a link of their personal reviews to potential clients.

Comment by Camille Forte on April 15, 2012 at 6:11am

I have to agree with Brian; I don't believe reviews will lose their value.  Credibility online is always a factor that will translate into sales in the showroom and business in the service bays.  You can avoid the learning curve of getting individual employees to garner reviews online by running a legitimate reputation management campaign.  You can avoid repetition by asking what made their experience different, why they came to you instead of your competition, and most importantly what did they do before they came into the dealership.  I still remember one customer review with a very elderly man who said "I did all my internet research before I came in to buy."  That review spoke volumes about the age we live in, and it's stuck in my mind ever since.  There are plenty of ways to encourage legitimate, engaging online reviews without pulling teeth - your employees' or your customers'!

Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on April 14, 2012 at 8:27am

David, Scott and Brian -- all helpful recommendations.  Keep 'em coming!

Comment by David T. Gould on April 14, 2012 at 8:03am

Joshua, customers are comfortable today with the value of completing online reviews. Most of them read other's reviews about us before coming to our stores for their purchase. It is totally reasonable to request online reviews (feedback) at delivery (the same time manufacturer surveys are brought up) AND with subsequent follow up. I don't find it necessary to instruct a happy client on what to say, just make sure they are thrilled, have your team's business cards and a way to reach the review sites that benefit your store best. The rest is up to them.

Good Selling!


Comment by Scott Falcone on April 14, 2012 at 7:16am

@ JMF The world has changed and so has the business. Old pay plans and techniques may not work as well today as in the last decade and certainly the things that need to be done in the dealership by your sales staff has changed too (if you want to sell more cars).

There is nothing wrong with tying a compensation plan to subjects like reviews, emails, pictures with customer on Facebook, and other social items (I.E. things that you feel are important).

Imagine for a second that you were opening a brand new dealership and you were hiring all new people with zero auto would you pay them and what would you train them on? Would getting reviews be part of a successful career? Would engaging customers on FB or Twitter be important to you? How about mandatory birthday cards and thank you cards? The list is for you to decide, but connecting the pay is nothing more than the trade off for doing the job you hired them for. Why don't you just do that now and (if it is happening) don't allow the tail to wag the dog...salespeople who were hired a long time ago who did not have to do the things that we know will help make them successful now, may have to change to your way of thinking.

Another example is in your service dept- OEM certification requires a certain level of skill to be maintained as new things evolve in that line of work. Employees have to go to school and be tested in order to be certified and ultimately to be able to work on your cars (job). Just because there is no certification for salespeople does not mean that they should not be held accountable for growing in areas you deem critical. 

I would suggest that you have a real discussion with your team regarding this. Remind them that when they were hired, it may have been in a different era, but that does not allow them to remain in the past if it will hurt YOUR business. Changing a pay plan to reflect the needs of your store is fair and reasonable and if explained properly by your leaders it should not be an issue to get the results you are after. 

When making these adjustments, it is important to focus on the activities and results will follow.

Good luck.


Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on April 14, 2012 at 4:52am

Brian, I need help with that.  What you suggest certainly makes the reviews more specific and authentic, but it's out of my comfort zone to say, "would you please write a review?  Uh... and, oh, by the way, here's how I'd like you to..."

I recently read an article about VW coming down hard on dealers who influence CSI surveys.  A lot of the tactics they consider verboten are the same ones that are most traditional and widespread. At Saturn, the standards scores got points subtracted by a measure of salesperson influence on the results.

I agree, as you wrote, "it's all about getting the honest feedback from customers who had a great experience."  I think review readers have a sixth sense about which reviews are just that.

I bring up the issue because, professionally, I need help with my techniques for soliciting great reviews without crossing that line.

Comment by Brian Pasch on April 14, 2012 at 2:56am


I encourage dealers who are asking customers to post a review about their experience to also ask the customer to include the name of the sales/service professional that helped them, and what car they purchased/serviced.  This will personalize the reviews and make them not look like a page of "Great Job" or "Awesome Experience" reviews.

I don't think aligning rewards or recognition at the dealership level for employees that are asking and getting customers to post a review is a bad thing or will eventually make reviews worthless, as you suggest.  It's all about how getting the honest feedback from customers who had a great experience.  Without the focus, all that would be posted were the people that had an axe to grind.

So in the end, with most things, it is about balance, quality, and authenticity.

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