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How Online Reviews (And Responses) Can Either Boost or Damage your Dealership

Customer habits have continued to change and evolve, and dealerships have sprinted to keep up with the morphing path to purchase. One thing that has remained a constant, and even increased in importance, is the customer review. 

 

According to a study conducted by Bright Local, reviews are now more important than ever. Their research stated that the “industries in which consumers are most likely to have read reviews: 1) Restaurants, 2) Hotels, 3) Medical, 4) Automotive, 5) Clothing stores”. 

 

Automotive shoppers are the third most likely group to read and leave reviews, yet many dealerships don’t have a focused approach and business plan for this critical component. This article will focus on some key findings from that study and unpack how these statistics directly relate to the automotive industry.

 

Why online reviews are important to your dealership

 

  • 93% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year, with 34% searching every day

 

This is a fact that should not surprise anyone. People are using primarily mobile devices to research, locate, get directions to, and call dealerships. Ignoring any aspect of your online presence could prove detrimental to your overall business, and the dealerships who have taken initiative to focus on and consistently improve their digital presence are the ones who are leading the pack. 

 

And while your Google My Business page, online reviews, and review responses are not the only aspect to focus on, you should devote time to them, as they are definitively drivers of both online and on-lot traffic.

 

In a recent article in Automotive News, multiple large dealer groups discussed their focus on reputation and online reviews, with large groups such as Sonic Automotive stating the first thing both the President and the CEO do every morning is check the reputation of their stores. 

 

The first thing. Daily.

 

If you want to be successful in any aspect of car sales, monitoring and managing your online reviews and reputation need to be high on your daily to-do list.

 

  • 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020 - up from 81% in 2019

 

The bulk of your customers are searching for services and vehicles online, reading reviews, and making judgements on whether or not to go to your dealership based not only on your star rating, but also on the number of reviews and quality of responses. And with brand loyalty at an all time low, it is imperative that you take control of your online reviews. In a Google study, 90% of customers still consider at least one other brand while shopping for their next vehicle.

 

With 87% of customers reading online reviews, and 90% considering multiple brands, you need to ensure that your reputation is fully optimized and strive to continuously obtain 5 star reviews.



  • The most important review factors: 1) Star rating, 2) Legitimacy, 3) Recency, 4) Sentiment, 5) Quantity

 

When was the last time you looked past your star rating on Google, DealerRater, Cars.com, etc. and analyzed some of the other metrics? Recency and quantity are integral to your overall reputation, but also to Google. When algorithms are scanning the internet to serve up the most relevant and pertinent information to customers, they also consider when the last review was posted and the quantity. 

 

One suggestion is to monitor your review growth week over week and month over month to ensure you are soliciting reviews from your sales and service customers. It can be an eye opening experience if you realize your reviews have only grown by 1 or 2 MoM. And with 

With 73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month, you need to ensure your reviews are fresh and current.

 

  • When writing a review, 20% of consumers expect to receive a response within one day

 

This is the tough part. All reviews, whether positive or negative, expect a response. The customer took the time, wrote a review, possibly aired a complaint, and are now staring at their phone anxiously awaiting a response. And in the case of a negative review, the frustrations grow with each tick of the clock.

 

Who is responding to your reviews (both positive and negative)? Do you have a person or team at the dealership reviewing your Google My Business, Social platforms, and third party sites to ensure when a review is left you are either thanking the customer or addressing the issue? As the voice of the customer continues to get louder and larger, this is an area you can manage and manage well if you have either the appropriate staff or the right partner to do so.

 

In next week’s blog, we will focus on how to respond to reviews and the best ways to utilize both positive and negative reviews for your advantage.

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