Lauren Labunsky

Editor’s Note: The following blog is authored by Lauren Labunsky, public relations manager for Dealer Spike, a company that provides websites as well as a suite of online advertising solutions designed to help dealers increase sales and service profitability.

Without positive reviews online, the success of your dealership is at stake. Back in the “good old days,” what customers had to say about your business was important too, of course — but social media and online review sites have now made it crucial to give feedback from customers your full attention.

Review sites and social media platforms have made “word of mouth” a digital reality. A customer’s Facebook post about an experience at your dealership is the equivalent of telling everyone at the neighborhood barbecue, or co-workers at the office. For that reason, even just one customer’s negative experience shared online could result in lost business. As you can imagine, this problem is made even worse if the bad review is posted directly on one of your dealership’s business pages online. 

Positive reviews for your dealership, however, are like gold. They reassure potential customers that you are worthy of their business. Without ever having visited your dealership before, prospects rely on this kind of feedback to help them decide if they’re going to purchase from you or the competing dealership across town.

Consider these facts: BrightLocal’s 2017 survey found that 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses this year, and 85% of consumers say they trust them just as much as personal recommendations. And, according to research gathered by Small Business Trends, 22% of consumers will not buy from a business after reading just one negative review. After three negative reviews, that number jumps to 59%. Furthermore, Small Business Trends research shows that reviews contribute to 10% of Google’s search engine ranking criteria, so negative reviews (or a lack of reviews) also have a significant impact on your dealership’s appearance in search results.

So, what should you do? For the health of your business, gaining positive reviews and handling the negative ones should be a top priority. There are a few ways to do this on your own if you don’t already have a reputable management strategy in place with an online provider:

  • Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by claiming your business on customer review platforms – BrightLocal says the most popular ones are Yelp, Facebook, Google, and BBB.org.
  • *Encourage happy customers to leave a review – many people won’t think to do so on their own. Telling customers how much it helps your business can encourage those who have had a good experience. BrightLocal survey results show that 68% of consumers left a review when asked.
  • Respond to all reviews promptly. Good reviews deserve acknowledgement, so thank your customers for their time and effort to help your business. You could even post positive reviews from third-party platforms on your website or add them to marketing materials (with permission). Bad reviews need to be addressed as soon as you can – it’s often possible to turn the situation around, and the writer may even remove the review if their issue is resolved.

There are several other methods and types of software to handle customer reviews but starting with these simple steps will get you off to a good start. If earning more positive reviews for your dealership wasn’t a focus in 2017, make it a new goal for 2018. Do your business a favor, and help your dealership thrive.

*Yelp’s terms of service prohibit business owners from soliciting reviews. For more information or for assistance in navigating reviews for your business on Yelp, feel free to reach out to Dealer Spike.