Five star experience, five star reputation

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Five star experienceWarren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”   

You’ve spent years building your dealership’s reputation — investing time, sweat, and resources into providing an exceptional customer experience. No one understands how valuable your reputation is more than you. 

What people say online about your dealership has become one of the most important reflections of your dealership’s customer experience. It influences your business development opportunities on all fronts, including clicks to your website, leads and even phone calls.

According to a Convergys study, 70 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

And in a Whole Brain Marketing blog post, 87 per cent of consumers said positive reviews online reinforced their purchase decisions, while 80 per cent said they changed their mind based on negative information they found online.

Reputation management is about developing, building, and protecting your online reputation. This includes increasing positive reviews, turning negative reviews into opportunities, and most importantly, providing an experience that promotes and encourages customers to leave positive feedback.     


In the digital world your main priority should be developing a five star experience that drives a five star online reputation.

But dealers who show a four-plus star rating on Google typically don’t reach it by providing a lousy customer experience.

You may find a few dealers who’ve figured out a way to manipulate the system, but Google doesn’t take well to these kinds of users. Your goal should be to use feedback, both online and offline, and chart a course for developing happy, positive-review-writing advocates of your dealership. 

What if I told you your marketing results and ROI are impacted by your reputation? The goal of any marketing effort, whether it’s your SEO, social media activities, pay-per-click, video pre-roll or even direct mail, is to drive traffic to your website and gain a conversion.

In the digital world your main priority should be developing a five star experience that drives a five star online reputation

Before most customers visit your website they’ll do a Google search on your name revealing the moment of truth — the number of stars that appear for your dealership.

To ensure you have the ability to manage your reputation, every dealer needs to claim their online reputation profiles.

Whether it’s a free local directory such as Google+ Local or, a paid automotive reputation site like DealerRater, or social media platforms such as Facebook and Foursquare, you need access to every profile.  

Additionally, you need access to these platforms to ensure they have accurate and up-to-date information optimized to help increase your search ranking.

The two main platforms you should focus on first are Google+ Local and Yelp. That’s because Yelp powers reviews on Apple Maps, which can be seen by Apple users.

As you can see, everything is connected, and really, would you expect anything less from Mr. Jobs?

For the same reason and many more, Google+ Local is just as important for Android phone users and anyone searching for your dealership on Google.

If you do have a review, it has the potential to be seen quickly by those navigating to your dealership via their mobile phone.


A key step in reputation management is watching what’s being said about your dealership online. To do this, you’ll need to identify keywords and hashtags related to your dealership — and those of your competitors — to monitor online conversations.

There are a number of tools you can use to do this, but my favourite is Google Alerts. It’s free, and can be used to receive regular notifications of new mentions right to your inbox.

Once you have the pulse of what’s being said online, you’ll need to respond appropriately. I always recommend responding to all reviews, whether positive or negative.

Responding to positive reviews is free advertisement for your dealership and shows customers you appreciate their feedback and that you’re listening.

An example of a positive response is: “This makes our day…thanks so much for being a wonderful customer!” Showcase positive reviews with your team and give credit to employees for exceptional work.

70 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

When responding to negative reviews, I encourage dealers to follow a few simple but critical rules:

1. Take the conversation offline — Remember to try to take the conversation offline quickly and never get into an online battle for everyone to see. Disarming the situation in a timely and professional manner can have a positive impact on others viewing the feedback.

2. Review the concern with your leadership team — Poor reviews should matter to everyone. Gather the facts about the situation and decide how to respond.

3. Response should come from senior management — The customer should feel as though the issue has been escalated and someone of authority is responding to the concern.

An example of a response could be, “I am sorry you had a bad experience…may we spend some time on the phone so we can address the issue and work together to solve your concern?”

4. Coach your team about this learning opportunity — Take the time after the issue is resolved to discuss the situation, how it was handled, and how similar situations should be handled in the future.

Think of it this way — a negative review is simply an opportunity to flip a bad customer experience into a great one.


Once you have a process in place for monitoring and responding to reviews, think about getting more of them.
Many dealers I have spoken with apply different strategies to increase online reviews, including:

  • Compensating employees for each review higher than four stars;
  • Create a competition for who can get the most positive reviews each month;
  • Setting up an automated email that goes out to all sales customers three-five days after delivery and the day after their service appointment, encouraging them to leave a review online. 

Now that I’ve provided you with what you need to become a reputation Jedi, it’s important you track and measure your results. Each month you should look at how many new reviews you have, your average rating, and response rate. Look at month-over-month and year-over-year results to see how you’re trending.

Are you getting more reviews? Are you responding to more reviews last month than a year ago? Have you seen any impact on your website visits, leads or phone calls? Watch for these results.

The fact of the matter is there’s no golden online reputation strategy that will work for every dealer. Promoting awareness and training employees on the importance of a positive online reputation for both the dealership and their individual brand is crucial to your success.

Remember, unhappy customers love to write poor reviews, while happy customers might need a nudge.

Provide an exceptional experience while implementing a few reputation management techniques, and you’ll be sure to see positive results. 

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