Autonomous vehicles, online car shopping, and ridesharing have been gradually picking away at auto dealers’ profits, but there’s another, perhaps even larger threat lurking in the shadows: bad customer reviews on social media.
In a recent 23,000-participant study conducted by our sister company MaritzCX, approximately six in ten respondents stated that social media reviews directly impacted their last auto purchase decision. That number climbs markedly for car buyers under the age of 35 years, as 63% of younger shoppers read online social media reviews before choosing a vehicle. It’s no surprise that social media has quickly become a popular and trusted source of reference for car shoppers; this is apparently just the nature of the beast, so to speak.
But unlike self-driving cars, online dealerships, and rideshares – all of which contribute to the forced evolution of auto dealers vis-à-vis natural selection – threats such as negative social media reviews aren’t just part of doing business in the modern era. Au contraire, mon ami! By understanding how auto buyers use social media reviews to make decisions, car dealers actually have the capability of deescalating these threats to avoid earning Darwin Awards.
Car Dealership Reviews: By the Numbers
First, let’s get to know all those purrty percentages! Of the survey’s 23,000-plus respondents:
- 63% find customer reviews to be trustworthy
- 90% read both positive and negative reviews to influence their purchase
- 39% read Google reviews when choosing a dealer
- 11% read Facebook reviews when choosing a dealer
- 11% read DealerRater reviews when choosing a dealer
- 53% have written a social media dealership review
- 18% do not write social media reviews because they were never asked to by their dealer
- 42% are likely to leave a review if requested by their dealer or service center
Social Media Engagement & Reputation Management Tips
Dealer involvement is critical, not just before and during a sale, but also post-sale. Here are a few expert tips to keep those star ratings flowing.
Dealers who “nudge” customers to take surveys or leave reviews are twice as likely to see their online visibility grow organically. Even one new Facebook review or DealerRater testimonial a week will help build awareness and improve the reputation of a dealership.
However, requesting customers to write good reviews is easier said than done—at least, that’s the case for most small-to-medium dealerships. Providing your dealership’s staff with an accessible tool to accomplish this is key. A fully integrated CRM, working in tandem with a personalized, practical and automated process, can decrease labor costs and time. (Shameless plug alert: a sales or CRM coach, who understands the ins and outs of your system, is also hugely beneficial.)
Try Email Surveys
Preset “Take Our Survey!” emails, sent to customers who have already purchased a vehicle or received service, are popular alternatives. Most shoppers lack the time or interest to write a full review; customer experience surveys are generally less intrusive and can be completed in mere moments. Generally, response rates for these surveys can be as high as 50%, meaning there’s potentially more opportunity here versus “Write Us A Review!” emails.
Respond to Reviews
A positive social media image doesn’t come easy; dealers must be proactive in responding to dealership reviews, both good and bad. Findings show that even a short, personalized response – and we mean personalized! – to a negative customer review may sway 75% of on-the-fence customers. (Only 10% of customers are positively influenced by generic dealer replies.)
In addition to leaving personalized responses to reviews, dealers should also be respectful of reviewers who have had negative experiences. Consider asking questions to better understand their qualms, offering them free shiznit as an apology. If need be, your response can also explain the situation in more detail, which should provide context to anyone reading the review. When all else fails, you can also seek to take the discussion offline.
Focus on Positive Reviews
On the most popular car dealership review sites, positive testimonials are worth more than several bad ones. Highlight those good dealership reviews by writing a meaningful reply, which will help to showcase your excellent customer service. Skewing your responses to only negative reviews may give potential consumers the impression that you’re constantly on the defense or have loads of unsatisfied customers. No bueno.
Assess Your Engagement Ability
Prioritizing customers over quotas can be difficult for any sales team. However, it’s been proven that building a strong online presence and trustworthy brand is the best long-term investment a dealership can make. To better understand where you’re at and how you can climb to the top, consider analyzing your ability to engage with customers. Are you handling leads well? Do you have any stragglers who need additional training? Can you utilize a better or automated process to request and reply to social media reviews? You might be surprised at what you uncover.
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