When’s the last time you Googled your dealership? If you don’t have a plan in place to monitor and manage your online reputation, it is time to take action. An overwhelming majority (79 percent) of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. The perception of your dealership in the eyes on the majority of your prospects is truly only as good as your online customer reviews.
An online reputation management (ORM) strategy is a key component of your dealership’s digital marketing strategy, and getting started is easy. Just follow this three-step process to jumpstart your ORM efforts!
Step 1: Conduct an Online Audit
If you haven’t been listening, it’s time to tune into the online chatter about your dealership – prepare yourself for the good, the bad and the ugly.
Search your dealership’s name, any nicknames and common misspellings on:
• The Better Business Bureau
• Ripoff Report
How’d you fare? If you consistently receive negative comments about the same issues over and over again, it may be time to examine those facets of your dealership operations. However, in most cases, negative online reviews can be effectively managed and actually turned into stories of customer service success, which brings us to…
Step 2: Clean Up Your Online Reputation
Negative reviews are bound to happen, but left unmanaged, they can present a poor online image for your dealership, which is sure to negatively affect your bottom line. Here are six rules to keep in mind as you manage negative reviews:
Don’t retaliate: Receiving a negative review is really frustrating and oftentimes very personal. Your first instinct may be to give the reviewer a piece of your mind. Don’t do it! Step away from the keyboard, get a cup of coffee and calm down. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a negative review. However, even if the reviewer is wrong, you can’t bad mouth, yell or curse at them. If you’re solution-oriented, things will calm down soon enough. And, sometimes, your loyal customers and community will come to your defense.
Do not delete the post. Show the quality and professionalism of your dealership by addressing the problem. Admit your faults, fix them and carry on.
Be real. Respond to the reviewer just as you would if they were standing right in front of you. When you respond to negative reviews, convey in writing that you are committed to finding a solution to better serve that customer. Reach out to them by providing your direct line or email address. Ask for more details and invite them to have a conversation with you directly about their experience. Take the time to understand their point of view, so you can clear up customer dissatisfaction.
Say something. Whether you receive a negative or positive review, post a public response. The lack of a response to a negative review conveys to readers you’re not engaged online and, as a result, the review will hold more merit in the user’s mind. Always respond to a negative review with a positive statement like, “We pride ourselves in 100 percent customer satisfaction; we have contacted this reviewer to address their experience at our dealership.”
Realize that some people are just unhappy. Know that no matter what you’ve done to try to rectify a situation, a negative review may be the unfortunate result if you just cannot make that customer happy. It will happen. Apologize, express regret, learn something from it and move on.
Ask your best customers for reviews. Diminish the impact of negative reviews by adding legitimate positive reviews. In our busy world, happy customers forget to take the time to share their experience, yet most of them will happily do so if you simply ask. Some dealers offer customers an incentive to post a review, which is another proactive strategy to consider.
Step 3: Take Advantage of ORM Tools
Monitoring your online reputation doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Take advantage of the following ORM tools to act as your online eyes and ears.
Google Alerts. Google Alerts is one of the most effective tools for online reputation management. Set up alerts for any search terms you want, such as your dealership name or targeted phrases relevant to your niche, then specify the types of results you want and how often. You can even get alerts as mentions occur for real-time online reputation management. Google sends alerts directly to you in an email digest, so there’s no ongoing legwork involved. The best part? Google Alerts is free.
SocialMention. Another great free tool is SocialMention, a search engine that scours the social universe for mentions of your dealership name or any other search phrases you want to track. A pro is that the results are really detailed, with a breakdown of the sources and users, ratings of how positive or negative the conversation is, and its overall reach. A con is that SocialMention doesn’t offer automated alerts, so you’ll have to actively check your dashboard at regular intervals.
Following these strategies will help you maintain a healthy online reputation, and you’ll rest easy knowing your Google search results will tell the true story of what it’s like to work with your dealership.
Heather Blessington is a nationally-renowned speaker on social media strategy and a digital marketing veteran with more than 20 years experience. As an MPN columnist for Web Savvy and CMO at ARI Network Services, Blessington is dedicated to educating powersports dealers about digital marketing