Automotive Digital Marketing ProCom

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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 Cars.com DealerADvantage blog, Jack Simmons, Dealer Training Manager, Cars.com, 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.

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

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Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 18, 2012 at 3:04pm

Ryan, You are a valued member of the ADM Community and we want you to write and publish... I attended Heather's workshop about DealerRater at the 12th Digital Dealer Conference and am very clear on DealerRater's policy regarding onsite reviews.  I certainly respect DealerRater and endorse them as a high value supplier to car dealers.  But, when it comes to methodology, I recommend using a dealer-owned review site for instore reviews and using DealerRater for reviews generated by consumers after they leave the dealership... or better yet, give the consumer a choice when requesting reviews by email, letter or phone by providing something like http://www.LouFuszReviews.com

Comment by Ryan Leslie on April 18, 2012 at 2:52pm

Ralph,

Wow! I had no idea how much we disagreed about this. I don't want to clutter up Joshua's post although I think that his comment about customers no longer believe what they read due to the overwhelming sameness of Completely Satisfied customers is explained largely by the in store collection process you've described.

If I write and submit an opinion piece would you consider publishing it here on ADM?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 16, 2012 at 8:06pm

Ken Beam, I went to the review page for Jeremy and pushed a couple of his reviews to Facebook, Twitter and Google... I really like the fact that Jeremy shows reviews from Google, DealerRater, Yahoo and others all on the same summary page that is all about Jeremy... Very nice... Compelling in a believable and customer friendly way! 

Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 16, 2012 at 7:59pm

BTW - I love the video of the customer taking delivery of his 2009 Audi S5 that Ken Beam posted in the comments below... There is nothing quite as credible as a video of a customer describing why they decided to purchase a vehicle from the dealership and comparing the current experience to what that customer has experienced in the past.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 16, 2012 at 7:53pm

Ryan, I realize that not every professional will agree with me about the pre or post F&I collection of reviews, but YES I find it to be a more productive use of the customer's time to ask them to do a review while waiting for Finance to get ready... The wait for F&I is a major detriment to CSI scores across the board, and it is also a period of time which always seems to be longer than it should be,,, a source of great pain to many sales professionals.  Keeping the customer busy doing something productive while F&I makes ready to receive them has worked well for me and at least a dozen dealers that i know of.  It sort of kills two birds with one stone; making the wait to get into Finance seem not as long while collecting a review.

I also know of at least one dealership that I respect a lot that has the Finance managers asking the customers to do a review of the sales process WHILE THEY ARE IN FINANCE! That particular store has collected over 1,700 reviews in an 18 month period one at a time while customers go through Finance... Since they  sell about 250 units per month, their review collection percentage is pretty good.

I know that many people will cite pros and cons of collecting reviews at the dealership, but the plain reality is it works a lot better for all involved when review collection is done onsite while the experience is fresh in the customer's mind and the dealership is in a position to rectify any customer concerns right then and right now, before the customer leaves the dealership.

PS - Don't ever feel the need to tread lightly... This is an open communication community.  We do not have to agree on everything and outside of cuss words, personal attacks and pornography, we want to encourage you to contribute anything you feel adds value to the community or a specific discussion.

Comment by Ryan Leslie on April 16, 2012 at 10:23am

Great topic Joshua.

Ralph,

There is a rather big difference between "fetching" a beverage from the other room that they know they could fetch themselves and offering a good or service in exchange for a review.  The first is cordial, the second is coercion. I agree with you, that surely isn't a bribe, they could refuse and get the drink themselves, right?

I know this is your forum Ralph so I'm treading lightly here, but I also know that you encourage spirited debate that betters the industry as a whole. I'd like to ask for some clarification on the second part of your comment. Are you advocating for review collection in the showroom before the consumer goes into Finance?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 16, 2012 at 9:18am

Amy - I have routinely offered to fetch a cold beverage or cup of coffee to customers in the service lounge who I have asked to complete a review of their service experience using an iPad I provided and never thought of it as a bribe, more of a simple customer service courtesy... Plus, it allows me to gracefully exit the customer lounge while they complete the review without me looking over their shoulder.  I have also taught this technique to dozens of dealership employees and it has met with mostly universal acceptance.  Never has it been positioned as a bribe, because we would do the same thing for customers whether or not they were filling out a review.  It just sort of makes the whole process flow better.

In the showroom, I do pretty much the same thing, but it is after the deal is closed and before they go to Finance... Again, leaving the customer alone while I get a bottled water, soft drink or cup of coffee is a great way to avoid staring at them while they do the review, giving them some privacy without the customer feeling like they have been abandoned.

Comment by Joshua Michael Friedman on April 16, 2012 at 9:16am

Thanks for your reply, Keith.  Amy, Keith is correct, try not to go down that path.  I've got a good set of best practices to integrate and implement from these responses.  Great thing, this ADM community.

Comment by Amy Rothenberger on April 16, 2012 at 9:10am

One problem for people these days is there is never enough time.  Do you feel that it is unacceptable for a sales associate to offer to buy the customer a cup of starbucks for taking the time to write the review?  Not actually paying for the review, just a compensation for their time?  I think the factories would have a much higher return of surveys if they offered a simple starbucks for the customer who takes the time to fill out those ridiculous long surveys.  We would have a much better picture of actual customer experiences if we all had more returned surveys. It is so unrealisitic to base all kinds of things off of less than a 1/4 of customers who do business with us.  Face it, either someone who was completely blown away, or completely pissed off actually fills out the factory stuff.  Just my opinion.

Comment by Keith Sponburgh on April 15, 2012 at 5:07pm

Joshua, I have a very short and sweet email template for the salesperson or BDC rep (if they were involved enough with the customer) to send out to their customers.  The basic message is little more than a "thank you" and asking them to post a review of their experience with "me."  I have them send it out after the customer leaves if they believe the customer will most a possitive review.  Asking the customer for the review is the easy part, getting the dinosaurs on the sales floor to actually do it is where the challenge lies, I have one salesman out of over 20 that does it.  The key is that the request has to come from somebody that the customer will remember as a key part of their good experience, not some random sales manager that may or may not have stopped by to say hi.  If you do that you'll get far better results than bribing the customers to post reviews.

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