One of the pioneers of gathering user input to utilize reputation as a selling tool for its members online was eBay. It was intended to steer the user away from sellers who might have given former buyers a bad or poor experience. It worked. Amazon institutionalized the idea. I loved it! I purchase from Amazon regularly and never purchase from anyone with less than a 5-star rating. I loved it … as a consumer.
I remember one day I saw an article by Ralph Paglia
, one of my online heroes, pointing to a Google search of a dealer with many bad reviews. He speculated that the dealer was completely unaware that his reputation was being ruined online. What a wake-up call that was for me!
I guess it’s human nature that when we see something like that happening to us, that we immediately think about how we can get rid of the negative comment or at least hide it behind positive comments. So, Reputation Management was born. Whole companies sprang up to help you create positive reviews that would swamp your negative reviews and, hopefully, make them less believable. I’m a buyer for that idea, or at least a partial buyer.
But not long ago, I was reading page after page of bad reviews for a dealer and the bad reviews were uncomfortably consistent… “Sleazy, dishonest, couldn’t wait to get out of there…” And then, all of a sudden, a light shown through from the heavens and the reviews became 100% positive. Amazingly enough, they sounded almost like advertisements for the company. “[Dealer’s name], why buy anywhere else?”
Problem solved. Or is it?
I’m a consumer. Does that make me dense? I think not. What was obvious to me is obvious, I’m sure, to you.
I asked a dealer recently what he planned to do about his overwhelmingly bad reviews. He told me they were going to provide their sales staff with iPads so they could get (coerce) their customers to give good reviews before they left the dealership. What will happen when the customer goes on line to print a retraction of his most excellent review, stating that he felt coerced or his vote was bought and paid for?
Here is the uncomfortable truth about dealer reviews. You can’t fake them and you can’t buy them. You must earn them. Now I know there are many, many great dealerships that DO earn the satisfaction of their customers everyday. Reputation Management is perfect for them. But for those who EARN bad reviews, it’s time to wake up and repent. The Internet has changed the environment in which you do business. You cannot run; you cannot hide. Time to face the music and take a good hard look in the mirror.
So what to do, if you are in that position? Take a good look at your sales process, your managers and employees and their practices, make it clear that you are cleaning house. Then start to resolve problems as they occur, even if it costs you money. Reputation Management means MANAGING YOUR REPUTATION, not MANAGING YOUR REVIEWS.
I am now hearing word about Reputation Marketing. You can’t market what you don’t have. The first steps to Reputation Management, and eventually to Reputation Marketing begins by looking in the mirror. That is the unfortunate truth about Dealer Reviews.