You’ve read article after article about the wonders of an online presence and what it can do for your dealership.
While that’s undeniably true, there are liabilities that come with the territory, as well. Your brand’s online identity is a crucial element among your company’s marketing assets. It works night and day reaching audiences with information they need, striving to convert wishers and watchers into active car buyers. It’s practically the only way to reach certain market segments, and we’d never suggest that you minimize the importance of such a flexible tool. Even so, this aspect of your company’s identity needs to be treated with care and respect in order to have a positive effect on your bottom line. Haphazard or misguided efforts here can wind up costing you crucial goodwill and actually harm your reputation in the marketplace.
Handling such an important business issue isn’t always straight-forward, either. Sure, you know better than to post inappropriate party pictures on your dealership’s Facebook feed, but what should you do when an irrational and irate anonymous consumer posts negative reviews that don’t reflect the reality of your engagements? Websites can be labor-intensive and lengthy projects when it comes to creating or changing them on a large scale. It’s tough to keep track of all the details of an active online presence, but these strategies can help you get the job done with style and grace:
- Double-check your website and keep it up to date. Websites take work. A lot more work, sometimes, than a many dealerships can offer at one time. Even so, putting in the man-hours to ensure the site is completely functional, accurate and reflecting the latest news needs to be a priority. When shoppers find a site that’s only partially finished or obviously out of date, they tend to relegate the business to which it belongs to the mental trash bin. Your website needs to make it glaringly obvious that you’re open for business and ready with up-to-the-minute deals that merit another stop by the showroom.
- Stay above the fray. On rare but unfortunate occasions, every business runs into an angry, irrational review from someone who claims to have had a terrible experience. While these are upsetting for the customer-focused professionals who suspect it didn’t happen quite that way, the best thing is sometimes to simply let it be. If there is a real issue you can address with an apology (and a course correction) then by all means make it and salvage what you can of the relationship. At some point, however, it’s wisest to simply ignore the malcontent. If theirs is the only negative review in the collection, it stands out like a sore thumb and only serves to remind the reading public that there’s one crazy in every crowd.
- Remember your manners. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it can be tricky. In the course of legitimate online debate and discussion, feelings may become strong and words flow quickly. Try to keep in mind that even though it feels immediate and even personal, everything you do online is here for good. That means giving yourself an extra minute before posting to breathe and consider deliberately whether or not the comment you’re making – or the way it may sound to the recipient and other readers – is really something you want to represent your business for eternity. Err on the side of being a gentleman to avoid regrets later.
- There is no private online space. Even personal communications have a way of making an appearance in the professional world sooner or later. You can no doubt recall a few politicians and celebrities who have had to retreat shamefaced after private exchanges were unexpectedly made public. Stress to your staff the importance of keeping clean social profiles and using good judgment. Everyone involved in your dealership should be reminded to avoid voicing strong opinions on controversial topics like politics or religion that could inspire hostile opposition. And make it very clear what is, and is not, appropriate to post on behalf of your firm. It’s wise to create a social media policy and educate all of your staff on it just to make sure what seems like common sense is clear to everyone involved.
The internet and social media are loaded with value for your dealership, allowing you to reach customers in places you’re not - even when you’re asleep. The net effect is positive without a doubt, but reaping the benefits takes vigilance and work.