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Which Review and Ratings Sites Should My Car Dealership Use?

Which Business Review and Ratings sites should we focus our customers on for posting their evaluations of our dealership?

Earlier this evening, I was doing some research in preparing to write a response to a comment posted to one of my previous blog posts by Michael Baker in which he submitted the question:

"Anyone have 'sound' metrics of approximately knowing what review 'sites' by prospective automotive consumers for service and sales have a 1,2 3.. visitation volume???"

After seeing my response grow to what is probably unfairly large and diversified, I realized the topic merits a more complete article and recommendations... So, my thanks to Michael Baker of San Diego for prompting the research which led me to posting this article. Before I go any further, let me state that I have seen multiple reports, charts and infographics which illustrate relative traffic volume amongst various types of automotive and review focused sites. Three of the sources I will refer anyone asking a question like Mike had, linked to their relevant automotive sections are:

Both are well known, respected and widely used website traffic data aggregation and reporting services. Google itself has used Compete, Inc. for several projects while the advertising industry heavily relies on ComScore for consistently accurate website traffic metrics. I also like perusing the charts and articles posted to MarketingCharts.com for various website traffic and visitation measurements and comparisons. From our friends at ComScore: Know the Score - Refereeing the Digital Media Game

While researching the resources available at Compete, Inc. I came across this interesting statement made by Bonita Coleman Stewart, a Google executive who I have worked with in the past and who I continue to have the highest levels of respect and admiration for:

"The auto industry still underestimates the importance of the Internet in the shopping process, but DaimlerChrysler is changing this. With Compete, we now have new insight into our customers’ behavior and are able to leverage this data to make better and faster marketing decisions." 

--Bonita Coleman Stewart, Vice President, Americas, Partner Business Solutions at Google; Formerly, Director of Interactive Marketing Communications, Chrysler Group.

Getting back to the essential question Mike Baker asked, according to the consumer advice site "Real Car Tips", a supposedly reliable resource that targets automotive consumers:

"The largest dealer review site is DealerRater.com. They have around 1 million user-generated reviews and also provides a way for dealers to respond to the reviews.  The dealers that are actively involved on DealerRater.com care about their reputation and are usually ones that will treat customers right."

Not so much contradicting, but showing us a different perspective from the statement shown above, information provided by DigitalAirStrike.com paints us a picture in terms of demographics and a breakdown of car buyers by age range and which dealership review and ratings sites they use. Keep in mind that raw visitor traffic data to review sites includes a much larger pool of people than those who actually buy a new or used vehicle from a car dealer:

One of the most insightful and high quality bits of guidance I have seen any such "tips and advice" site provide to automotive consumers comes from Gregg Fidan, founder of RealCarTips.com... This was in response to a consumer complaining that there were not enough negative reviews on DealerRater (remind me not to sell a car to that guy!):

"You do have to take online reviews with a grain of salt, for sure. The problem is that most of these review sites make their revenue primarily from dealers, so there is a conflict of interest. Doesn't mean all the reviews are useless though. Like I said in the article, there are dealers that take online reviews and customer service seriously - you can see which ones take the time to respond intelligently to reviews or complaints." --Gregg Fidan

Let me point out that there are several online resources that seek and display consumer reviews and ratings of car dealers, each of which have larger amounts of automotive consumer traffic when compared to sites which offer an exclusively review based user experience. Edmunds.com has been collecting reviews on franchised new car dealers longer than any other site that I am aware of, and with Cars.com offering dealership reviews you have two highly trafficked automotive sites with many thousands of customer reviews.

Then there is the LEAST CONSISTENT REVIEW SITE OF THEM ALL...
Google Reviews

The various business models and approaches that Google has applied to their online reviews of businesses of all types has changed many times and caused far too much anguish and disillusionment among thousands of car dealers and their management teams. Google has repeatedly amazed me with the sheer level of disarray created within the community of car dealers who have implemented a reputation management business process designed to encourage their customers to post reviews on Google...

When a dealer or consultant is overly eager to focus their reputation management strategy on driving customers to post reviews on Google, I cringe! Until Google shows at least one year of consistency in their policies and review filtering algorithms, I will not recommend that dealers implement any strategy that relies on the Google Review system to continuously work in a consistent manner... That would be stupid! Based on the past 5 years, the prospect of Google not making radical changes to the way reviews are collected and then served as search results is highly unlikely... Tread carefully with Google Reviews. Offer them to customers who are Google loyalists, but don't push them and definitely don't rely on them as the core of your dealership reputation management strategy.

   

The one approach that I have seen remain consistently effective is to provide convenience and choice to dealership sales and service customers when implementing a reputation management focused business process. By NOT RESTRICTING YOUR STRATEGY TO A SINGLE REVIEW SITE, dealers achieve a similar effect to a diversified investment portfolio... And, the customers consistently perceive a dealer who recommends multiple review sites as being far less manipulative and more trustworthy in the motivation behind requesting a review, than a dealer who restricts their request to a single review site.

As a "Best Practice" example from amongst the many dealers using this "Multiple Choice" strategy effectively, I would like to publicly compliment a friend and automotive professional who I have a ton of respect for. My hat is tipped in deference to Megan Barto for her brilliant approach in using this strategy at the New Country Motor Car Group with dealerships in Connecticut, New York and Florida. Megan secured several very easy to remember and instantly recognizable for their purpose customized Bit.ly shortcut links, several examples of these branded links are shown in her website link graphic I have posted below:

Now, there are most certainly review and ratings sites that I prefer using more than others! Several comments have alluded to the perception or experience people have regarding which review sites are more dealer focused. Let's face it, there is a range in that regards, but I am sure we will all agree that in many cases the consumer's perception of which review site is better or more believable is different than those of us working for car dealers.  Review sites run the gamut from BusinessRater to PrestoReviews, which are both VERY dealer focused and certainly the most dealer friendly of all... Plus they recommend in-dealership review gathering process which is something that I continue to see working quite effectively in multiple ways, but which is controversial, to say the least...

I have personally found Yelp to be a highly effective resource when properly managed and with a minimal advertising budget allocation. In the past, Yelp was the site dealers loved to hate, but in the last 4 years that has changed as more automotive reputation management professionals have learned how to work with Yelp and experienced the intense loyalty of the Yelper Community for car dealers who maintain a strong Yelp presence... Including an "Enhanced Listing" for the dealership and advertised promotional offers for Yelp users.

It seems that ever since the launch of Siri on iPhones, which is powered by Yelp Reviews, the effectiveness has increased and the Yelp sales team has been purged of the heavy handed sales staffers that gave Yelp an undeserved reputation for "Pay to Play" before Facebook and Google made such systems more politically correct. dealers and reputation management professionals will do well to always keep in mind that Yelp has a sales team comprised of over 500 commissioned professionals... Luckily for the auto industry, our commissioned sales professionals rarely, if ever promise things to buyers that dealers are unaware of or unable to deliver.

On the other end of the spectrum we have sites like RipOffReports.com and a few others of similar ilk which created whatever success they have achieved by focusing on the very worst business practices and by being cheerleaders for the chronically pissed off consumer.  These are people that most of us would prefer not to do business with and who seem to get a "fix" for whatever they are addicted to every time someone publishes the name of a business followed by "Sucks".  Their is obviously no valid reason for a car dealer to in any way cooperate, support of recommend the review sites that are business hate sites.

There are many reasons for a car dealer not to place all their eggs in one basket by driving traffic from either prospective customers or customers who have done business with the dealership to a single review and ratings site... That would be like taking down your dealership website and sending all your traffic and pointing your URL's to the dealer's AutoTrader.com web page and inventory. I am sure AutoTrader would be happy to oblige... As would any review site be happy to work with a dealer who implements a process to drive traffic to their review and ratings site. But, that is quite simply not the smartest or most "In the dealer's best interest" strategy.

Ultimately, all dealers who obtain what anyone would call "Success" in managing their dealership's business reputation will have a strategy and supporting tactical implementations of business process to communicate with their customers. This communication objective is essentially to convey the simple fact that the dealership and its staff appreciates when the customer posts an online review of their customer experience at the dealership and rate the dealership as to whether they recommend that others do business there, or not. Once most of us agree that communication with customers is important, the next step is to identify how and when.  My experience with successful Reputation Management strategies shows that there are two types of retail customers based on timing and location:

  • Customers at the dealership
  • Customers not at the dealership

It really is that simple... If a dealer wants to provide a means of writing reviews and publishing them while at the dealership, the two resources I recommend for that part of the process are BusinessRater and PrestoReviews. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using handouts and signage to make it easy and convenient for customers to post reviews using their own personal devices, and for the most part this is OK whether or not they are physically located at the dealership.

I do not mind listing the review sites I like using and working with, each having a unique value proposition to car dealers. Here are the review sites I like, not in any particular order of preference, I recommend dealers make it easy for customers to select from a menu listing all of them, when they are not using the dealership's ISP or dealer owned devices. If the customer is at the dealership, the only two sites that I know of which are OK with onsite customer reviews are BusinessRater and PrestoReviews, but I am certain there will be more in the very near future... Here are the offsite customer review sites I personally recommend:

eBay Seller Ratings

Many thanks to Larry Bruce for posting a comment after this article was originally published where he identified the grandaddy of all dealership review and rating systems... Ebay has built their business model on the accuracy and reliability of eBay Detailed Seller Ratings. Here is what eBay publishes regarding the most recent updates to their Seller Ratings and how they impact car dealers:

eBay Detailed Seller Ratings DSR: Buyer Feedback Explained by eBay
You may be aware that recently there have been some significant changes to the eBay feedback system for evaluating sellers. These changes are partially reflected in the Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR’s) that appear in a seller’s Feedback Profile on eBay. Buyers may rate a seller on a scale of a possible 5 stars in four rating categories:

  • Item as Described
  • Communication 
  • Shipping Time 
  • Shipping and Handling Charges
According to the eBay instructions to buyers for rating sellers, buyers should leave feedback in conjunction with the DSR ratings that is completely open and honest about the buyers experience with that particular seller. The possible five stars relates a four star experience as equaling "Satisfactory". What the buyer may not be aware of is that a 4 star rating, although called "satisfactory", is not satisfactory at all, and will in fact penalize a seller.

Sellers who earn only four stars are not eligible to be Powersellers, will have their listings given reduced exposure in the eBay searches and will not be eligible for listing fee discounts. This either reduces the sellers profit, and / or increases the prices of the sellers products, both making it difficult to succeed.

All eBay buyers should be aware of the rating system and it's potential impact on sellers.
Surely there have been many buyers who thought leaving a four star "satisfactory" rating would be the correct rating to express satisfaction, but not jubilation. Unfortunately the 4 star rating simply does not represent the buyers intended outcome. It means not good enough to be a successful eBay seller.


Please, when rating good sellers be aware that rating 4 stars or less will hinder the seller greatly. Certainly some sellers deserve to be penalized, but be aware that if you truly are "Satisfied" , please rate with a 5 star.

DealerRater and Kelley Blue Book

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate Chip Grueter and the DealerRater.com team for their recent partnership with Kelley Blue Book to display DealerRater posted customer reviews on the dealership's KBB.com listings. Last December, Chip Grueter, the President of DealerRater announced:

“The integration of DealerRater ratings and reviews within the Kelley Blue Book product set reinforces our leadership position in the automotive review space, the quality and quantity of our content, as well as how impactful dealer reviews are in the car buying process,”

“It is more important and beneficial than ever for dealers to focus on generating reviews on DealerRater and becoming a DealerRater Certified Dealer.”

Shown below is a fascinating infographic about car dealers and the relevance of social media in driving automotive purchases. This was published by the fine folks at AutoRevo... Thank you, AutoRevo Team for providing such a graphic and straight to the point illustration that every car dealer should take 5 minutes to review:

Views: 1304

Tags: BusinessRater, Dealer Review, DealerRater, Google+, PrestoReviews, Ratings and Reviews, Review Sites, Yelp, ratings, reviews

Comment

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Comment by Alexander Lau on July 14, 2014 at 11:03am

BTW, I love what Snap21 has been doing @ https://snap21.com/vertical/automotive. I have no connection to them, whatsoever.

Comment by Manny Luna on June 3, 2014 at 5:26pm

Human Reviews ARE real and so deadly!

Comment by Bryan Brooks on June 3, 2014 at 11:31am

Thanks, for the Kool, that was a proud moment taking control of every ad on their Name as search term! I actually built a full on wordpress website for each new model of vehicle using the dealertrend plugin for inventory to be able to pull that off and not break Google TOS. 

Comment by Bryan Brooks on June 3, 2014 at 11:27am

Correct, I am not a fan of dealerrater, no need for them after July 21 2011 if you have a strong organic and ORM presence to begin with. They haven't marketed themselves (think Cars.com or TrueCar branding strategies) to be a big enough brand to the consumer base to be relevant in today's ORM marketplace to a dealership. Their only positive is to MAYBE push one competitor or negative comment down the rung to increase POD score (god I can't believe I referenced POD score). 

Comment by Manny Luna on June 3, 2014 at 11:25am

That's Kool! 

I'm a Bryan Brooks fan!

Alexander Lau Forgive me, thanks!

Comment by Ryan Leslie on June 3, 2014 at 11:19am

Well, at least you're consistent Alexander.

Comment by Bryan Brooks on June 3, 2014 at 11:13am

Don't know him personally but our departments went head to head for a while there. Ahhh...... memories!

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 3, 2014 at 11:11am

Manny, I'll disagree with you there dude. Google Reviews are completely objective. Bryan was referring to cars sold via eBay motors, I believe. Different subject.

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 3, 2014 at 11:01am

@Bryan, by that logic, DealerRater doesn't matter...? I agree with you, Google and eBay motors is great. 

Comment by Manny Luna on June 3, 2014 at 10:59am

Are review sites important? Yes

Do we encourage dealers not to use them? NO

All I'm saying is, dealers shouldn't be held hostage with their own content. They should maximize it for themselves!

Do you want to be the rats and rabbits racing against each other or the Eagle that's in control of the race?

If you're blaming bad reviews on not selling cars in record numbers you have a bigger problem than what you think!

Bryan Brooks Do you this cat?

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