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What is more important than your reputation? No matter what industry you are in, the answer to the previous question is a large and glaring, “nothing!” There is a reason that businesses such as Yelp! generate so many lawsuits. In the pre-Internet Era, bad word of mouth was just that, very bad, but now with the ubiquitous nature of the internet, the “reputation game” has indeed changed a great deal. Negative reviews online can now be a real killer and can do their damage with remarkable speed.
Previously in this book, we discussed how consumers across the board now use the internet to find and digest information on every aspect of their purchasing decisions. Part of this investigative and information gathering process comes the now increasingly standard de facto background check via search engines of the business in question. If you’ve invested in reputation management, then you will do a lot less sweating than if you have not.
Simply stated, just one highly negative review can cost your dealership a good deal of money. Why? Even one negative review can give people a reason to pause. That will, some percentage of the time, be all that it takes to send car buyers elsewhere. The issue of online reputation management is further complicated by false statements potentially made by competitors, disgruntled former employees or customers that simply have a false perception of events or the service that they have received. Yes, the world of online reputation management is a complicated one, but it is also an vital part of your online presence. That means you have to address it with due diligence.
There is no way around it today, dealerships face a huge potential obstacle in the fact that many customers will research your establishment online before doing business with you. This can either be a blessing or a curse. For example, if you can populate the web with positive and helpful comments about your dealership, you will actually be able to increase conversions. So while the notion of negative and unfair reviews is an alarming issue, there also exists a real opportunity to use search engine based car buyer research to your distinct advantage. Play this part of your online presence correctly, and you could receive a shockingly large boost over your competition. Think of it this way- if all anyone finds when they perform an online search regarding your car dealership is how absolutely wonderful you are, then guess what? The edge you’ve acquired over your competitors is nothing short of huge!
One place where you should be very cognizant of your reputation is your Facebook page. Facebook represents a big opportunity to turn the tides in your favor. If you can work out a strategy where customers posts about positive experiences at your dealership, your potential clients will be increasingly likely to visit your showroom.
Another website that you need to monitor, and we mentioned this one previously, is Yelp. Huge numbers of people go directly to Yelp to post about their experiences both good and bad. In short, you need to watch Yelp with a good level of intensity. You may even want to consider going as far as appointing a “point person” who periodically checks Yelp in relation to your dealership's reputation on the site.
People on the Internet highly value the feedback of others. According to the managing partner of the Phelon consulting group quoted on Inc.com, "If you handle it right, the dialog between you and your customers can become the lifeline of your business. To establish and maintain a healthy flow, customer feedback must result in change your customers can see. Change is the most powerful currency to reward vocal and consultative customers." 6
However, if you do receive negative feedback on a site like Yelp or on your Facebook page, there is a way to use this to your advantage. If you acknowledge your customer's issues and are respectful and professional, this can actually impress your potential clients. They will see that your dealership responds directly to concerns and cares about the needs of your customers.
There is a widespread misconception in virtually every industry that consumers are wildly irrational and expect perfection; however, this is not the case. What customers instead want and value is effort, progression and evolution. The majority of consumers understand on an instinctive level that running a large business is a complex process with a lot of “moving parts” and, as a result, things will periodically go wrong. However, where consumers are less forgiving is when businesses fail to respond to consumer concerns with care and effort. Showing that your dealership takes concrete and proactive steps to address and fix problems when they do arise will do more than help you score points, it will also help you score new car buyers!