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Why You Don’t Need a 5 Star Reputation & Other Reputation Management Myths

As a reputation management specialist at Cobalt, I talk to dealers about their reviews all day, and I’m always amazed by the amount of misinformation in the industry. Working at Cobalt, I’m lucky to be privy to insights from the largest in-market car-shopper data warehouse in the industry. Many of these insights have caused me, and consequently my dealers, to think twice about some long-held beliefs about automotive reputation management. Here are a few of the latest findings-I guarantee they will surprise you.


Myth # 1 – You have to have all five star reviews. If you don’t, no one will buy a car from you.

The bad news is, the automotive industry has it tough right out of the gate. A new Cobalt reputation management eBook surveying over 2,500 dealerships found that, for all other industries, the average reputation ratio is 80 percent positive reviews and 20 percent negative reviews. In the auto industry, however, an unmanaged dealership reputation has an average of 80 percent negative reviews and only 20 percent positive. The good news? Turning your reputation around may be easier than you think. Cobalt Business Intelligence found that when it comes to star ratings, breaking the 3.5 threshold gets you into the consideration set. In other words, don’t worry if your reviews aren’t 100% five stars. The fact is that people want to read real experiences, and will likely expect to see a few “bad eggs” mixed in. A mix of reviews builds credibility and trust in the mind of the potential customer.


Myth # 2 – If you ignore a bad review, everyone will.

It’s not just reviews that count; it’s how you respond. If car-shoppers see complaints, they are looking to see how you handled your previous customers. The fact is, reputation management is a human process, and ignoring a negative review will make it look like you don’t care.

And yes, in my book, posting an automated response counts as ignoring a negative review.  While it may even seem like a simple solution to copy and paste an auto response, it’s not effective. People see canned responses as untrustworthy and not transparent. This is why I work with my clients to relay personalized and dedicated review response messages.


Myth # 3 – I can just do a “review drive” and get all the reviews I need for the year.

There is no quick fix for online review generation. Slow and steady wins the race. A well-respected Google expert and technology consultant Mike Blumenthal emphasizes what our reputation management solution coins as the “healthy trickle” approach. In his recent blog post he writes that, “The reality is that you don’t need 10 reviews a week at Google. In fact you don’t need 10 reviews a month or a quarter there to succeed. Most businesses need to accrue one review every month or two so that at the end of 3 years you will have 30. You need to ultimately get more than 10 so you get Zagat rated and you need to stop fretting about how many you have there and how many you have lost. You need to keep putting one foot in front of another, keep gaining endorsements across the internet.  In the end if you run a good business and have loyal customers you will get your share of reviews at Google and elsewhere.”

While providing a great car-buying experience is the foundation of a solid reputation management strategy, it’s not enough. It is essential to have an in–store review process that simply becomes second nature to the staff.  I advise my clients to remind their customers that reviews are important to the business at every touch point where it makes sense – during delivery, at the cash wrap, and once the customer has driven home in their new car.


For more reputation management myths and insights, download our new Cobalt e-Book “The Street Smart Guide to Automotive Reputation Management.”

Natasha Seidl is a Reputation Management Specialist with Cobalt.

Original article posted here.

Views: 587

Tags: Cobalt, automotive, best, dealer reviews, management, practices, reputation


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Comment by Doug Davis on November 9, 2012 at 12:18pm


Aj, I wouldn't go quite that far.  There are some "old school" dealers that are oblivious or don't care what is written about them.  Obviously, if you are running an operation where you honestly care about customer satisfaction, you won't get this type of review.  I saw a review where the customer was complaining how the numbers changed when she received her contract in the mail.  There were at least ten more that said they arrived at the dealership within an hour and the car was sold.  One described where the F&I Manager "shirt sleeved" the deal.  I'm not going to put myself in a position where I try to answer for unethical and even illegal practices.

Comment by Aj Maida on November 9, 2012 at 12:03pm

PLEASE GIVE ME A POOR REVIEW!!!!! Yes that is what I said. Bad reviews are good! As long as you have enough good reviews then as Natasha talks about in Myth # 2, if you respond to the negative review in a positive manner. Show concern, take ownership and express that you want to solve the problem then the next person looking at the review will realize that you are trying to give the best customer experience that you can. The next person is really the person you are writing the response for on all your reviews (you are answering ALL your reviews right?). Another reason as Ralph points out it is where you will learn to be better at actually giving that "best customer experience" and if you do that you will get more reviews in a "healthy trickle" (I love that) or as Victoria states "authentic".

Comment by Doug Davis on November 9, 2012 at 8:03am

Great post, Natasha.

Years ago, we did a joint promotion for opening season at the local horse racing track. Anyone that purchased a ticket and attended, the first day of racing, had a chance to win a new car. At the end of the night, one lucky attendee had her ticket stub pulled and won a new car. When she came down to pick up the keys to her new car she announced, to the crowd, that the car had less than a full tank of gas.

In the most recent Nielson Polls, people trust online reviews second to referrals, from friends and relatives. You can have an excellent culture, dedicated to customer satisfaction, but if you are not managing your reviews, you will get mostly complaints like the lady that won the car. 

Comment by Victoria Hargis on November 9, 2012 at 7:27am

It is true you do not need a perfect reputation online, in fact, that is almost unbelievable. It is how connected the dealer is with their customers. Are they answering the complaints that customers are writing about? We all know that there can be unreasonable customers, but as a customer I want to know that the dealer is responsive to my complaint.

With my dealer clients I like to get the system in place that allows them to collect reviews in a seamless consistent way. It is consistently working the system that will build the authentic online reviews that are the lifeblood of online reputation.

Comment by Kurt William Hoppe II on November 9, 2012 at 7:15am

This is an awesome article, for a number of points:

1) Because many dealers run under the misconception that they have to achieve all five stars all the time, that mindset makes them prone to several issues that can hurt them. Firstly, they can be completely dishonest and try to run false review campaigns. Secondly, they will try to remove every negative review, which would put them in a bad light with the site/vendor (i.e. DealerRater) as much as with the public. Thirdly, they might actually discourage honest reviewing from the customer, so therefore nobody on the sales force is trying to solicit honest feedback. Without that, the business is losing access to a credible driver of change.

2) It is not about the number of stars, but how the business responds. Absolutely. When I ran a dealer e-commerce/BDC, I personally wrote every public DealerRater response, and we were lucky to have a Customer Relations Manager who handled resolving the issues. We were office neighbors so we could respond quickly, pull the data from the CRM or DMS on every deal (if the reviewer was so inclined to give us their details privately), and we closed every negative review with more feedback (such as: "We did not hear back from the customer with more information, but we are committed to resolving every complaint in a fair manner".) or we used it as an opportunity to leave a little education behind (such as "The customer felt that we did not explain the difference between a "no money down" lease and a lease where the customer did not need to lay out any upfront funds...") That way, the customer's perception can be balanced with a measured dealer response - always two sides to any story, right?

Happy selling!

Kurt W Hoppe II

Technology Performance Consultant /

Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 9, 2012 at 6:41am

Natasha, thanks for dispelling some of the more common misconceptions, but in regards to the myth of the 5 start review average, I would take it one step further and suggest that having all perfect reviews may be worse than a 3.5 star average because it strains the credibility of that dealer's entire review portfolio.  Additionally, one of the more important value propositions offered by a review generation strategy is getting the feedback from customers that identifies areas ripe for improvement in a dealership's customer facing operations and business processes.  Negative reviews provide management with insight that can only come from a customer's perspective.

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