Professional Community for Car Dealers, Marketing, Advertising and Sales Leaders
After publishing my Google+ Local whitepaper, which outlined the changes business owners need to make when designing their online review strategy to avoid review spam penalties, I have been asked to give some specific recommendations for next steps.
If business owners want to increase their online ratings on Google+ Local and Yelp specifically, the focus has to be on identifying “active” users of these two platforms. For Yelp, this means a consumer who has posted reviews for other businesses over time on Yelp.com. In terms of Google, it is people who have used their other services like YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs, Google+ or have reviewed other businesses over a period of time. As I stated in the whitepaper, accounts that are created just to post a review on Google or Yelp, and then go dormant, will be seen as review spam.
If any dealership is using a service that takes customer feedback collected via email or in the store and “posts” those comments on Google+ Local, Yelp, or other review sites, cancel that contract immediately. Regardless of their claims that they use multiple IP addresses and have tricked Google, you are being reckless with your critical Google+ Local business page.
From my research and discussion with Google, car dealers who created an in-store process to gather review for Google+ Local were very likely tempted to create accounts for happy customers and then facilitated their post. Once the customer left the dealership, they never used the account that was generously created by the dealer. The data analysis showed that dealers as a group had some of the highest percentages of these “one and done” accounts that posted reviews.
So, what should dealers do to sustain a gradual increase of activity on Google+ Local, Yelp.com, DealerRater.com, and other popular review websites?
Before I suggest a solution, I also want to recognize that for many dealers their internal processes for surveying customer satisfaction have low compliance by employees. Some sales professionals that I have interviewed feel that they ask their customers for “too much” already, let alone asking them to post a review online. This is a blunder on their behalf and undermines the sales and marketing efforts of the dealership.
I’m not going to document why reviews are the “best” tactic for repeat business, online referrals, and greater credibility for dealers and sales professionals. There are many great articles that document the successes that online reviews, video testimonials, and social media channels have on increasing sales. I do however want to recognize that businesses have to consider processes that are not dependent on staff solicitation of reviews.
DealerRater.com has been a pioneer in training dealers how to create word tracts, conversations, and merchandising tools to get their customers to post a review when they get home. The DealerRater system works of course, but getting consistent commitments from dealership employees is a challenge.
Does This Mean Death To Kiosks?
Can in-store iPad kiosks still be used for customer feedback? Sure, but just not for Google+ Local or Yelp.com.
Kiosks are ideal for in-store reputation management platforms like PrestoReviews.com, BusinessRater.com, or the AAN. Just make sure that the Apps for Google+ Local and Yelp are removed from the iPad and your staff is trained on what these in-store kiosks can be used for.
Automated Survey Systems For Car Dealers
There are a number of companies offering car dealers a compliant solution for engaging customers for feedback and asking the “happy” customers to further share their comments online. I have had the opportunity to review many of these systems in use at dealerships across the country.
Automated dealer survey software works by polling the DMS each night and identifying customer transactions for sales and service. An email is sent the following day asking customers about their experience at the dealership. The surveys normally contain two or three questions, so if the email is opened, a high percentage will fill out the survey. These surveys provide immediate feedback for managers, which can often assist in resolving problems before they impact OEM CSI scores.
Based on the survey responses, two actions are taken. If the survey is positive, when the customer clicks on the “submit” button a “thank you” page is displayed. On that post survey page, happy customers are asked to post their review on a popular review site, which dealers can choose whom to display.
I recommend that dealers should not offer more than three review site choices. Dealers can start with Google+ Local and Yelp.com and pick a third site that is a priority for the dealership based on what sites are being shown in their Google + Local page or when someone searches the dealership name and “reviews online.
The post survey page “language” should clearly state that the consumer should NOT create an account just to post a review. This is an important update that should be considered for all automated survey systems in light of my whitepaper. Without this change in text, even automated systems can entice well-meaning customers to create an account and post a review. This has to be discouraged.
If the survey is negative, the post survey page informs the customer that a member of the dealership will be contacting them to resolve their concerns. As stated, this feedback loop is critical for timely responses to “heated” customers that dealers do not want going viral!
Automated Reputation Management Assistance
Dealers who are looking for well-structured software to survey customers and encourage happy customers to post online reviews have many choices but let me narrow the field down for you. What dealers need to look for is clean integration into the DMS and the reporting tools and analytics that report how well the automated processes are working.
Three affordable choices that should be researched are:
If you are an existing user of any of these companies website products, you can call your sales representative for a demo. Ask to see the features and functionality of their product solution. Currently, SRM is only available for Dealer.com users. The Cobalt and Dominion solutions are platform independent.
These IRM platforms do more than just send out surveys. All three products have a robust set of tools to simplify the monitoring of reviews and social commentary on the Internet. They also have a series of reports that can provide management feedback on the progress of the store(s) online CSI scores.
Dealers cannot afford to let their online review activity be a low priority. These automated assisted solutions are a dealerships’ 24x7 reputation management and marketing agent, a service that is not limited by staff compliance.
With these systems in place, your employees can focus on delivering outstanding customer service. The software takes care of the polling, escalation, and online feedback mechanisms. This is an investment that needs to be a part of the standard operating procedure manual for all car dealerships.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t let your competition get the jump on you. See to it that you have sustainable, credible, and authentic activity on your Google+ Local business pages from active Google users. You may be surprised just how much more business your Google+ Local page will generate for you, but I won’t be surprised at all!
See you at AutoCon 2012!
Brian Pasch, CEO