We’ve already shown how important customer testimonials are for your dealership’s site—TL;DR: car shoppers are over 90% more likely to click your site if you have positive ratings—but online reviews are a two-way street. To make the most of your newfound stars, you need to invest energy into responding to complaints and compliments alike. In fact, 26% of online consumers feel that it’s essential for a local business to reply to their customers’ issues, and you don’t want to disappoint them, do you?

Replying to Online Reviews

Then why is it that over two-thirds of dealership reviews remain unanswered? Cars.com analyzed the reply rate of each state’s major dealerships, concluding that, yes, a higher rate of response correlates with higher dealer star ratings. For instance, Delaware dealers respond on average to 6 out of 10 reviews, which results in an extraordinary aggregate rating of 4.7 (out of 5). At the opposing pole are South Dakota dealerships, which reply to just 10% of reviews, resulting in a 3.9 rating. That’s inexcusable, South Dakotans!

As a digital marketing company primarily working with auto dealers, we understand how tedious this seemingly innocuous process may feel. But replying to online reviews allows you to capitalize on other dealerships’ missed opportunities—and shows potential buyers that you’re not just a lot filled with metal, rubber, and robots in tan suits. Here are the top 5 examples of how a customer-focused dealership should handle both positive and negative reviews.

#5) Personalize Positive Responses

Dealers Personalized Response

Happy customers rarely leave positive reviews without a nudge in the right direction—on the other hand, data suggests that 93% of consumers leave negative reviews following a poor experience—so reply to their positivity with enthusiasm. Avoid canned replies by opening with a personalized salutation, addressing the reviewer by name, or mentioning the vehicle or service they were pleased with. This extra step in personalizing your response connects you not only to that singular reviewer, but it also shows potential consumers that you care. Awww.

#4) Always Ask Questions

Dealers Ask Questions

When replying to a negative review—especially one that is fairly vague—try and start up a conversation by throwing out a question. In this case, “what could we have done to make this a 5 star experience?” is perfectly adequate. Should that reviewer reply back, you know that they’re likely engaged enough to take the next step in remedying the problem away from the public eye. Communicating by phone, DM, or in person allows you to address your customer’s individual issue without airing out your dirty laundry for all the world to see.

#3) Explain the Situation

Dealers Explain Law

Rare as it ought to be, your dealers, human as they are, may sometimes neglect to inform or educate a shopper thoroughly enough, resulting in that shopper’s poor experience. Some shoppers may simply misunderstand the process entirely. Either way, it’s your dealership’s reputation on the line, so right the ship by explaining the situation as best you can. Most consumers will look past a 1-star review if the business’s response is detailed enough to nullify or dampen the effects of the initial complaint.

#2) Reward Lukewarm Experiences with Free Stuff

Dealers Offer Free

Many times, customers leave neutral reviews because they want their voices heard—that’s 2016 in a nutshell—and are asking for someone to correct the issue. Quick responses to neutral or poor reviews have been shown to convert 95% of unsatisfied shoppers into repeat customers, and offering a free product or service is the most effective way of helping a disgruntled consumer get over their past qualms. So, be sure to reply to any 2-, 3- or 4-star reviews quickly, and don’t be afraid to hand out a freebie if at all feasible.

#1) Call Customers Out if Absolutely Necessary

Dealers Call Them Out

The customer is always right—unless they’re airing out grievances when they’re probably in the wrong. Obviously, as a respected local dealership and business, you don’t want to add fuel to the fire by being unprofessional. Instead, voice your own concerns about the review being dishonest, backing your claim with facts. That last part—facts—is important; without those facts, you’d be left with a two sentence response that actually does add unnecessary fuel to the fire, potentially painting your dealership in a negative light.


Diligently answering customer concerns and responding to reviewer issues is a cheap way to subsidize and support your other marketing and local SEO endeavors. Data even suggests that doing so may influence your local ranking by up to 10% and increase sales by up to 18%. Hey, it’s something! If you need help monitoring your reputation, managing ad campaigns, or planning your lead response strategy, contact our experts at Opportunity Max.