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Maintaining a Stellar Online Reputation for your Dealership

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 When shoppers find a site that’s only partially finished or obviously out of date, they tend to relegate the business to which it belongs to the mental trash bin.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.

Views: 125

Tags: Advertising, Atlanta, Automotive, Fitzpatrick, Management, Marketing, Media, Online, Reputation, Social

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Comment by Ashley Poag on July 13, 2012 at 10:59am

A clearly define media policy for employees is a good suggestions! Often people’s definition of what’s professional or acceptable is different. If you have a policey everyone is on the same page.

Comment by Jim Fitzpatrick on July 12, 2012 at 6:42am

Ketty and William,

I do agree 100% with your opinions that the best way to handle these issues is to address them right away by countering the negative with positive information. If the issue is something you can repair with an apology or some sort of compensation that will go a long way to mending the relationship and overall customer experience. Sometimes all anyone wants is to know that they are being heard and understood. I also believe there are instances when comments are negative and the customers mind is made and no matter what you do they won't change their opinions. In those instances only, you have to accept that this is a public forum, do your best to fix it but know that you can't please everyone all the time.

Comment by William E. James on July 12, 2012 at 6:09am

wonderful insight, must read.. I do agree with Ketty Colom, you have to " nip the Problems early " get in control of the problem..manage the problem before it manages you..

Comment by Ketty Colom on July 11, 2012 at 12:49pm

I really don't agree with ignoring bad reviews best way to deal with them is to answer them. I wrote about it on a previous blog post of mine, but here's a snippet:

  • Talk with disgruntled customers to solve problems in a timely manner, just don’t ignore them.
    • If one of your customers has a poor experience with your dealership and decides to go with your competition, there is little point in contacting that customer three months later.
    • Crisis management and customer service are examples of priority responses. Countering negative comments and reinforcing the positive will only grow in importance.
    • Look at the positive: a complaint is free intel—much cheaper than the research you pay outside vendors to conduct.

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