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“Reputation Management” (RM)??  I was part of the first group of folks who started using this term, as far as I know, and I have come to strongly dislike it:  A great reputation is created with great customer service; it isn’t managed.  However, if, by RM, you mean that you need to let the world know about your great reputation that you get from delivering great customer service and working to correct unhappy experiences, that’s very good; unfortunately, RM is sometimes positioned as a way to overcome valid bad reviews (get them off SERP 1, for example).  Or, worse, the term “RM” is sometimes hijacked by people wanting to advertise a way to “correct” your reputation, much like the firms that advertise to “clean” consumer credit.  And just as false and un-successful.

So, how do people find your reputation?  Nowadays, it’s found online by searching on a make/model in you area, searching on your dealership’s name (52% of website hits are from direct searches), finding Google Places rolled-up reviews, finding sites such as your PrestoReviews site on the first SERP, getting DealerRater info, and various other review sites such as MerchantCircle, etc.

And how much impact is a reputation?  Reputation is the oldest advertising, but it has been long-eclipsed by one-way, one-to-many commercial advertising.  Data says that, however, if reviews are available, 82% of online shoppers will read them—but what the shoppers do with them next is currently in some debate:  How much do reviews influence their choices?

Do you really want to wait for that data?  Not if you want to win

And, so, the first real “management” you need to do for reputation, besides delivering a great customer experience, is to understand and properly react to what’s actually happening with customers that is now being relayed via reviews, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  And in ways it will be sometimes hard to see or measure.  And sometimes in real time! 

For example, in my own case I’m “friends” on Facebook with my wife’s dear friends, a couple.  The husband, call him “Ted”, was on Facebook complaining he was being mistreated at a dealership during the sale, and I happened to catch that in my Facebook news feed—and I realized it was the dealership where my friend, Mike, was GM!  I called Mike, and it took a few days to sort it all out, but “Ted” was finally happy and crowing about the good experience to all his friends on Facebook.

That’s “hands on” Reputation Management.  Real reviews from real people, really in the dealership, that lead to a real and great reputation.

And we come to the age-old question, paraphrased:  If a tree has a great customer experience in the forest, and no one is there to see it, did it really happen?  In other words, how do you amplify the advertising that is a review?

The first answer?  SEO!  This is why I’m a big fan of PrestoReviews, which accepts reviews from customers in the dealership (allowing for the fastest resolution of any issues) and turns them into fantastic search engine results.  We talk a lot about the extremely high value of “user-generated content” for great SEO, as we should, and this is “customer-generated-content” and very dealer-centric.  This is the best of what I already wrote “Real reviews from real people, really in the dealership, that lead to a real and great reputation”, now leading to great SEO--brilliant, and a great win for any dealership.  And the Presto Reviews are starting to roll up into Google Places, as well, which is even better.  Here’s a screenshot of a search for a PrestoReviews client Hawkinson Kia (click on it to see it full size):


The next answer?  It’s not Yelp.  It’s DealerRater, in my opinion.  Yes, I know DealerRater is best used as a paid service, and that it runs its own search engine efforts using your reviews (your content!), and which it sometimes also turns into ads for competitors within your review listings,  Not dealer-centric on those points. However, consumers use it and it’s dealer-only for ratings (no other vertical markets) and has a strong “review-site” foothold, and it’s not that expensive to do the paid version.  AND DealerRater reviews will often roll up into Google Places, and that’s the real value.  There are a few other sites like MerchantCircle to consider, as well.  Here’s a Dealerrater screenshot (click on it to see it full size, and note the competitors shown are actually in Houston, which is where my IP is):


Anyway, to wrap up here, I’ll live with the term “Reputation Management”, as it’s got that strong foothold, too.  However, without hesitation and regardless of what tools you use to manage letting people know about it, I’ll tell you how to simply and always have a great reputation: 

Start with a great customer experience!

P.S. Check out Shetterly’s Three Laws of Reputation

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on April 28, 2011 at 9:30am
Thanks Thomas!  :)

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on April 28, 2011 at 9:26am

Excellent post.

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