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This one isn't going to make me any friends, but I believe it wholeheartedly and feel that it needs to be said...
I was asked a couple days ago by two different prominent people in the industry the following question: Can you outsource your reputation to a vendor? I’m of the opinion that with a proper definition of the term “reputation,” the short answer is, “No.”
What is “Your Reputation?”
Merriam-Webster’s Learners dictionary defines a reputation as “the common opinion that people have about someone or something : the way in which people think of someone or something.” Can a vendor truly affect the way your market thinks of you in the long term? Absolutely Not! What your market thinks of you is earned over time. That is why it is said that a reputation is built not made.
No amount of money invested with a Reputation Management vendor can undo the results of a pattern of poor Customer Experiences at the dealership. There is no distinction between an online and offline reputation, both parts make up the whole. As an example, the negative online results of a “Bait & Switch” or “just get ‘em in” mentality in the store can’t possibly be managed by an outside vendor because they are powerless to fix the source of the problem.
"Reputation Management Companies" serve the same purpose as a band-aid, they stop the bleeding. Here is the problem, no amount of band-aids can fix Cancer... You need surgery! It is up to management, or in some cases ownership, to scrub in with a scalpel and cut out the sickness! Simply paying a nurse to apply another band-aid every time you get a bad test result isn't going to make you healthy. It may make you feel better. It may even make you feel like you're doing something about the problem, but at the end of the day, somethings can't be "covered up" they can only be cut out.
The 3 P’s
There are 3 P’s you need to consider when it comes to your dealership’s Reputation Management strategy:
Last thought: You can never outsource who you are. Any vendor involvement should be secondary to your own. Some vendors provide valuable tools to help you strategically manage your reputation online, but at the end of the day, it is YOUR reputation to Protect, Preserve and Promote.