Automotive Digital Marketing

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting with a client when they say, “I’m sick of being held hostage by customers who threaten me with posting a bad review on Yelp.”  Just last Friday, I had a conversation about this with a good friend who’s a successful sales manager for high-line import dealership here in the OC. 

“Customers threaten us with negative reviews when they’re negotiating the price of their car or their service.”  He adds, “People do business with us because we’re a great store. Using extortion tactics is no way to do business.” Amen, brothah!


As the online review sites become increasingly more relevant, dealerships need to remember that nothing has really changed.  Word-of-mouth has always been there, it’s just easier to spread opinions and recommendations now with these new tools.  Think about it, if someone came into your store and said, “If you don’t give me what I want, I’m going to tell everyone I know that you’re horrible!”  What would you do with a customer like this?  You know your store is great, you respect the customer and charge fairly.  That person’s threats are empty and if they were to write a negative review (most won’t) then it will come off ‘empty’ in the post and will hurt that person’s credibility not yours.


For every negative opinion, you have 100+ happy customers that can share their experience.  Be proactive in getting those reviews online.  You already have a CSI process in place so add online review management to it.  There are proven strategies to streamline this so take action now.  Don’t fear negativity–use Social Media to engage, boost awareness and improve.  One caveat: if you suck and your customers hate you, then you probably have good reason to fear negativity.


A study report posted by eMarketer found that consumers trying to give others advice through Social Media seem to be more interested in directing friends and family toward brands they like than away from brands they’ve had a problem with.  Positive word-of-mouth is inherent in our basic human nature and dealerships need to become adept at getting that online.


Words are now more powerful than they’ve ever been. Your dealership’s reputation and credibility are at stake here so apply Social Media tools to broadcast your store’s brand. Pull the trigger and everybody wins!

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Tags: auto, car, dealer, dealership, management, online, reputation, sales


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Comment by Jason Manning on December 22, 2010 at 11:03pm

We're still in the people business and our customers will be the first ones to cause us to sharpen our skills.  I've been held hostage (along with the dealer's reputation) by a rogue customer before.  It was at that moment that I realized that the customer was not my typical customer and that I needed to decide to either take a shot at tearing down the walls and establish a relationship or make them a part of my 70% that I cannot close and thank them for coming in.  Our close ratio is usually over 30% and that category of customers usually walk away as happy owners...even after tough negotiations. 


We have to play to our strengths.  Kill them with kindness...even with an "online bomb" strapped to their chest.  Have a manager step out of their office, approach the rogue customer and say, "Folks we really appreciate your consideration of our dealer for your purchase.  Although we were unable to come to an agreement, we'd like to keep the door open if you choose to reconsider.  We're not used to lengthy negotiations.  We'd like to give you an opportunity to receive a free standard oil change on your next visit.  Please present my business card to the Service Manager.  Feel free to call me directly, if you have any further questions.  If you return, I will ensure you go to the front of the line, to save you time signing your contract."


Most dealers "roll out the red carpet" upon the arrival of a customer.  Why not give them an opportunity to leave on the "red carpet" as well?

Comment by Kathi Kruse on December 22, 2010 at 12:07pm
Wow, Boch Honda's InsiderPages Reviews. All I can say is...Ouch, that's gonna leave a mark! Thanks for sharing that, Ralph. You're so right about how people buy cars, they really do want a great experience.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on December 22, 2010 at 11:22am

Kethi and Rob are right, it is very rare for a customer who is spending the kind of money associated with a vehicle purchase to take a hard line when it comes to holding the dealer's reputation hostage... The fact is that most consumers WANT to buy their vehicles from a dealer that they can sincerely recommend and rate as best in class.  People generally do not WANT to buy a vehicle from a dealer that they know in advance they are going to give a poor review to...


However, there are some exceptions, such as Boch Honda in Norwood, Massachusetts... That dealership has a reputation that can only be appreciated by visiting their InsiderPages Review page, which last time I looked had an average rating of 2 out of 5 stars.  In the past year Boch Honda has cleaned up their DealerRater and Google Maps review sites, but the 30+ reviews on InsiderPages gives you an idea about the reputation they cultivated previously, which was sort of like a "Dick's Seafood Restaurant" in that Boch Honda was known as the cheapest place to buy a Honda, but where you would receive rude and callous treatment in the process.  For a while this was almost the envy of other dealers, and certainly the bane of American Honda which does not have much use for dealers with low CSI scores...


But alas, even Boch Honda of Norwood has had to clean up their act so that "Nobody Gets hurt"!

Comment by Kathi Kruse on December 22, 2010 at 10:53am
Thanks so much Jim!
Comment by James A. Ziegler on December 22, 2010 at 9:53am
I reposted a link to this on mt Facebook page...powerfully intuitive...JIM
Comment by Kathi Kruse on December 22, 2010 at 9:23am
Great comment Rob. This is a fantastic strategy to deal with this type of situation. I'm going to share it with my friend who I spoke of in the post. Really good!

Comment by Rob Fontano on December 22, 2010 at 6:04am

We haven't had this happen to us as of yet. I would have to seriously choke back my initial response. The best next course of action would be to step back from the negotiation completely and try and revisit any common ground you may have established.


I would then ask for a moment and silently pull up my dealer ratings site. (Granted, this should have been done before numbers were ever discussed. The sales person must positively communicate how proud these reviews make them feel.) I would say (Smiling) "Folks, you like me want this experience to be as positive as possible. Please take a moment and read for yourself what some of our customers have written about their car buying experience here at ABC Motors. I would turn the screen to them, give them the mouse and excuse myself for a few minutes.


When I returned I would have something new to add to the equation. "Folks we always strive to give our customers the best possible experience and we take a lot of pride in how they feel about us, We would be willing to...." You could then offer something like a free service.


I know there are some tough customers out there and their "Reactionary Defense Response" (RDR) can be down right adversarial, but I also believe that this situation could be avoided with the proper steps being followed from the beginning.

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