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Chelsea Shearer, Cobalt Reputation Management Specialist

by Alicia Ruggles, Reputation Management Specialist

Dealership Negative Customer Review

Imagine the worst review your dealership has ever received.  It likely included the words “worst,” “terrible,” and maybe some more colorful vocabulary. Maybe the customer referred to a specific employee who handled his transaction, and then ended his onslaught with a threat. Not only did he swear to never return to the dealership, he also vowed to tell everyone who will listen not to do business at your establishment. And perhaps it even contained some inaccurate and untrue information about the dealership. This type of dealership review may feel like a worst-case recipe for reputation disaster. But the reality is that it's only the beginning! If a dealership doesn’t handle this negative review in the right way, the worst review is yet to come.


Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse

We all know that "it’s not just reviews that count; it’s how you respond." So proactively reaching out to customers who have given your dealership a review is a great policy, and can certainly be beneficial--- if approached in the right way. But asking customers to then edit, delete or revise their comments is a big mistake that some dealers are making. In most cases this can result in an angrier customer who may end up tacking on an even more damaging comment to his already disparaging review. 

This type of update can shed an even worse light on your dealership than the original commentary, reflecting an inability to remedy your customer's negative experience. In other words--- this is the worst case scenario. So what's the “right” way to approach a heated customer after they've left an uncomplimentary review about your dealership?

  • Do not take it personally. This can be difficult if a customer left a particularly slanderous review. But remember--- the customer feels this way for a reason, and it's your job to understand why.
  • Immediately contact your customer. The best way to better understand your customer’s concerns is by reaching out to them privately via phone or email, before responding to the review.  Listen carefully to their concerns. Approach the conversation with the goal of understanding and sympathizing, not disputing.
  • Apologize for their unsatisfactory experience. You should reassure the customer that you strive to create great customer experiences and that you're interested in addressing whatever issue they may have had.  Assure them that you'll do your best to fix the issue.



Dealership Positive Customer Review

Responding to customers in a straightforward way will help a dealership build a "strong culture of customer service."  Once you've done your best to reach out to the customer and mend the situation, you may post a follow-up response to the original review, letting the customer (and anyone else who is researching your dealership) know that you were happy to address their concerns, and that you appreciated their feedback. This alone may encourage them to go back and revise, or even retract negative comments that they left. Here's a great example of what I'm talking about.  In his first review, this customer was clearly unhappy, expressing his dissatisfaction and even discouraging others from buying at the dealership.



Yet just a few days later, the same customer left this review on the dealer’s Google+ page:  

The dealership clearly addressed the issues raised, and the customer freely revised their previous comments without being pressured to do so. Encouraging your happy customers to post positive feedback is certainly an important piece to managing your online reputation. But revisions and retractions that appear alongside a review that was originally critical can have an even more powerful influence in a future prospect's purchase journey than if the review had been positive in the first place.

It's important for potential and existing customers to see that your business listened to customer comments and proactively focused on the issue at hand, and not on the review.  A dealer that approaches a negative review in this way has a chance to turn negative feedback into an opportunity for the dealership and regain the trust of the unhappy customer and the respect of others who see the review.

What approaches have you seen work well in your reputation response strategy?  



The Street Smart Guide to Automotive Reputation Management

Knowing how and when to respond to your negative reviews is just part of the reputation management equation. This eBook will arm you with the do's & don'ts and the top myths in automotive reputation management, as well as some compelling data on the proven impact of reviews in the car-buying process. Download eBook


About the Author

Chelsea Shearer, Cobalt Reputation Management Specialist  

Alicia Ruggles is a Reputation Management Specialist at Cobalt. Alicia and her fellow Rep Man experts help their clients manage their dealership’s online reputation and connect with their customers in online review and social communities. Alicia currently works with GM dealers to help them engage customers and increase overall customer satisfaction through social media platforms. She received her BA in Communications at the University of Washington, along with the Sales Certificate from the UW Foster School of Business. Alicia drives a black Mazda 3 named Sasha that is her pride and joy. Feel free to reach out to Alicia directly at


Learn more about Cobalt's automotive reputation management solutions.


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Tags: bad, facebook, how, management, media, reputation, review, reviews, social, to, More…worst, yelp


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Comment by Alexander Lau on July 10, 2013 at 1:13pm

Not if they're trying to make a review through a link from one of your client's websites.


Cobalt dealership Web sites disrupted by traffic deluge

Many auto dealerships that use digital marketing vendor Cobalt to power their Web sites -- including General Motors' dealer network in the United States -- had their service disrupted today by a deluge in Web traffic. Cobalt is "addressing this issue with the highest priority," said Chris Reed, Cobalt vice president, in a statement.


WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF BEING TOO BIG FOR YOUR BRITCHES! ADP buyout should make you run for the hills. OEM compliance my @ss. I wonder how much you've lost using Cobalt as your website provider. 

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 18, 2013 at 6:06am

You're absolutely correct David. It's as if each time I see a Cobalt post, they're overstating the obvious. I suppose you're going after the LCDs though.

"We all know that "it’s not just reviews that count; it’s how you respond." Your review scores do matter to Google's algorithmic index scoring. Obviously, a response if compulsory, but if your rankings stay negative over time, that is an indication your product or service is poor. Googlebot does take that into consideration as a variable for ranking websites. Hence, their inclusion of Local, Reviews, etc. within Google+.

Sorry, this just seems like another blatant Cobalt advertisement. Links to videos and lead forms.

Comment by David Brondstetter on June 17, 2013 at 4:55pm

Considering this particular dealer is an 11 out of 30 on their soon to be gone Google Zagat score, anything helps. I'm not so sure the dealer would be thrilled about putting a screen grab of their poor review in one more place.  (pro tip: all someone has to do is type in a little bit of the reveiw in google and the review shows up with the dealer's name, so it doesn't do any good to delete the dealers name)

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