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The Warren Buffet Approach for Automotive Reputation Management

The quality of customer service you provide can make or break your dealership, and now everyone will hear about it. Before  consumers even visit your dealership they are doing their research online. In his recent article “11 Things You Didn’t Know About Yelp”, Todd Wasserman noted: “Yelp’s research has found that a customer whose review praises “customer service” is  more than five times as likely to give a 5-star review than a 1-star review. Similarly, nearly 70% of those who trash a business’ customer service wind up giving a 1-star review.” Sounds like common sense, but the point is, great reviews start with great customer service. What will customers find about your dealership? Let’s look at this a little closer and investigate three ways to earn a positive online reputation.


First and foremost, you must build a strong culture of customer service at your dealership.This made me think of the three qualities that business magnate Warren Buffet has often said he looks for when making hiring decisions: intelligence, energy, and integrity. In fact, he believes that without integrity, the other two have little value. Each and every member of your dealership should understand and commit to the elevated quality of service you seek to provide to your customers. Great customer service should be at the top of their priority list. A dealership I work with recently asked a service customer to complete a brief 2 question survey about their service experience. Consider for a moment the feedback this customer provided:

“Dropping my car off was a cold, mechanical process; not the type of reception I expected having been a somewhat regular return customer.”


The reception the service staff did not meet the customer’s expectations.From the moment a customer steps on the lot, they should feel welcomed. Upon interacting with anyone at your dealership, they should also feel that you sincerely care about their needs and respect their time. If your employees are dedicated to providing excellent customer service, you will see that come across in the feedback customers provide.


Second, be sure your dealership has an automotive reviews process in place to seek customer feedback about their experience.Immediate contact with your customers after they purchase their vehicle or get their vehicle serviced helps you keep your finger on the pulse of how well you are doing in serving your customers’ needs. The dealer from the above example sent their customer a brief 2 question survey to ask for feedback. Perhaps you are reaching out to your customers via email or a short survey as well. You may find that some customers are still hesitant about providing their email address. We are all constantly battling spam in our Inboxes and it’s not surprising that many individuals guard their emails closely. It will be up to you to inform your customers about the reasons you are asking for their email address. For example, at the close of a customer’s visit to purchase a vehicle, you may say:

"Thank you for your business. We will follow up with you to make sure you are happy with your new vehicle. We would also like to keep you up-to-date on recommended services that will keep your vehicle running smoothly. What email address should we use to send you that important information?"


Lastly, once you receive their thoughts, be sure you have a good process in place, from management on down, on how you will take action on the feedback being provided. Be sure you have a designated person or team responsible for reading customer feedback. Have a clear process for routing the feedback to the appropriate managers so that the proper follow-up occurs. The above-mentioned dealer had the opportunity to address the concern right away. The feedback went directly to the Service Manager who personally contacted the customer. He also worked with his team to ensure they are more welcoming during the drop-off process. Customers will be pleased to know that your dealership is actually reading all comments they share and addressing any questions, concerns or comments and therefore will continue to find value in sharing their thoughts.


Remember, your dealership’s online reputation should be a reflection of your offline reputation. If you are truly doing a great job at engaging with your customers, you will start to see that loyal, happy customers will tell friends and family about their experience and they may even go online to write a public review of your dealership. By applying the Warren Buffett approach of emphasizing a high degree of integrity, a dealership that develops a strong culture of customer service, seeks customer feedback and takes action on the feedback being provided will earn a solid reputation.


For more great reputation management tips and tricks, be sure to check out Cobalt’s new eBook “The Street Smart Guide to Reputation Management.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Monica Mendoza joined Cobalt in January of 2012 with 15 years of professional experience in a career that has been focused on technology . She started first in IT where she managed and deployed global networks and then moved into Sales and Marketing for Microsoft advising companies on how to significantly increase their business productivity through the use of technology. Monica is now immersed in the auto industry and advises auto dealers across the US on how to improve their customer relationships and engage with their customers in online communities through the use of social media technology.

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Tags: Approach, Automotive, Cobalt, Customer Review, Dealership Reviews, Monica Mendoza, Reputation Management, Warren Buffet


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Comment by Michal Lusk on September 26, 2012 at 10:55am

Excellent advice, Monica! Caring about what customers have to say and then taking appropriate action based on their comments goes a long way towards gaining the kind of reputation that drives business.

Comment by Monica Mendoza on September 26, 2012 at 10:42am

Thank you for your excellent thoughts Tom!  Genuine interest and a smile do go a long way even when a tough situation arises!

Comment by Tom Gorham on September 26, 2012 at 5:03am

Monica, thanks for the straight talk. "...your dealership’s online reputation should be a reflection of your offline reputation." I call it "where reality meets the hype!" Great marketing and great reviews must reflect the great customer service they will actually receive when the customers enter your door. A simple and sincere smile and greeting is the beginning of a review-worthy experience.

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