Stop Putting Your Dealership’s Reputation at Risk with Filtered Reviews

Originally featured on Dealer Bar.

Reputation management has become an extremely important aspect of online marketing for car dealers. As more people turn to reviews to determine where they’re going to take their business, it’s becoming increasingly important to keep a good flow of positive reviews going on the various reputation websites.

It’s for this reason that so many dealers and vendors are turning to a filtered review process. The idea is this: send out an email checking on the sentiment from past customers. If the sentiment is positive, send them another email asking them to leave a review on one of the review websites like Yelp, Google+, or DealerRater. If the sentiment is negative, send them an email asking them to contact the dealership directly… or don’t send them anything at all.

This all sounds very appealing to dealers, but there are a few problems with the concept. Let’s take a look at some of them.

It’s Against the Terms of Services

The majority of review sites crave what they call “natural” reviews. They want dealers to get their reviews as a result of delivering good or bad service. They do not want them prompted by email. Some of them don’t even want them mentioned at all other than a sticker on their window or a sign on the desk.

Car dealers are under a deeper scrutiny by many of the sites. Yelp and Google+ have all but come out and admitted it and we know for certain that they do look more closely and with more skepticism at reviews left for car dealers than any other industry.

Here’s where it gets sticky. Most sites do not allow for what they call “filtering”. Even the sites that do not frown on asking for reviews want it to be universal. They do not want dealers or any business to inquire first about their feelings before sending them to the websites. This is an artificial inflation of positive reviews in their opinion. At best, these sites will “ghost” the reviews they feel are not absolutely organic and will often do the same things to the ones that actually are organic. At worst, they can put a label on the review pages of a dealer claiming that they were using fraudulent techniques to generate reviews.

It Hurts Your Database Marketing Capabilities

Email marketing is a powerful way to drive repeat and referral business. Reviews are important, but sending out two or more emails to someone in a short period of time is an easy way to get them to report you for spamming.

With database marketing, dealerships have the potential to dramatically improve their bottom line in both sales and service. Your low hanging fruit customers are the ones who already like and trust you, so staying in communication with them is extremely important.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t email them for reviews, but you want to make the number of touches on this particular subject as minimal as possible. The real value is in delivering future business-driving messages despite how important each review is.

It Can Get Ugly if Caught by Consumer Groups

If a review site catches you filtering, we’ve already discussed that the consequences can be bad. Unfortunately, it can be even worse if you’re caught by consumers or consumer groups.

Imagine a situation where a local consumer group discovers what’s happening. They realize that happy custiomers get encouragement to leave their reviews publicly but unhappy customers are hushed or ignored. This has turned into a PR nightmare for several dealerships around the country. Don’t be one of them.

It’s Completely Unnecessary

We’re not allowed to pitch our products here, so I’m going to simply leave a little teaser. There’s a great way to encourage positive reviews and directly handle negative sentiment without filtering or spamming out multiple emails. We can help.

At the end of the day, the risk of filtering reviews is nowhere near the rewards of doing so, especially when a clean alternative is available.