The Fastest Path to a Good Online Reputation is through Incredible Customer Service

Originally featured on Dealer Bar.

It’s easy for car dealers to get wrapped up in the “techniques” and “strategies” associated with online reputation. That particular segment of the automotive digital marketing arena is growing and extremely important in the digital age. However, no strategy or technique can replace the benefits of giving your customers the experience they really want out of a dealership.

That’s not easy for me to say. I own a reputation management company. As much as I’d love to tell dealers that we can fix any problem, we can’t. Nobody can. All we can do is encourage your customers to leave reviews. If they’re not leaving happy, there’s nothing we can do to make the reviews better. It starts with the dealership itself.

With the continued rise of trust by your customers in the online reviews they see on websites like Yelp, Google, and DealerRater, it has become imperative for dealers to have a powerful strategy for getting more reviews. That’s what we offer. To make sure those reviews are stellar, here are some thing to keep in mind or implement at your dealership.

Transparent Deals

If you want to start a car deal off on the wrong foot, hide numbers from your customers. Mislead them. Use old techniques like “bait and switch” or “hide and go seek incentives”.

On the other hand, if you want to make sure your customers are more trusting of you from the start and throughout the car deal, make sure they understand the numbers thoroughly from start to finish. It starts with the advertising. There’s nothing wrong with loss leaders, but make sure the deals you’re putting out online or through traditional advertising are easily achievable by the majority of your customers. If you’re going to use theoretical pricing on all of your advertising that could only work for someone who is in the military, just graduated from college, and a member of AARP, then you’re advertising for potential review disaster. Will you sell more cars in the short term with such impossibly aggressive pricing? Sure. Will you lose more customers long-term because of negative reviews? Absolutely.

As the deal progresses through the sales process and on into finance, be sure that everyone is singing the same song and the numbers are true. Hide nothing. It’s the digital age. Most of them already know what discounts are available, what they’re interest rate should be, and how much they’re trade is worth. Profit is extremely important and you deserve to make money on your products, but do so by earning their business and building value rather than by messing wtih the numbers. Thankfully, the vast majority of dealers have already adopted this line of thinking, but there are still some out there that do it wrong.

Build Up the Dealership

We’re all impatient. That’s a result of the pace of society. This impatience can lead to quick sales that skip steps and fail to bring the value of the dealership to light.

Make sure your sales team isn’t bypassing the service drive walk. Talk to your customers throughout the process. Long lulls of waiting can be easily broken up by good conversation and sharing knowledge about the vehicle they’re buying and the dealership itself. Make sure they’re meeting all of the relevant people at the dealership. If the sales managers don’t have time to shake hands with the people who are about to spend $35,000, you either need more or different sales managers.

Lastly, make sure to deliver the car with excitement. You might be selling cars every day, but your customers aren’t buying cars every day. This is a big deal for them. It can be a life-changing moment. Don’t rush them out the door once the papers are signed. Take pictures. Smile! Feel their excitement. If you’re sincere, you’ll connect with them.

Follow Up on ALL Promises

If you’re giving them their first oil change for free, don’t wait around and hope they don’t come in. Make sure they come in. Call them semi-regularly during the first few months after they’ve purchased their vehicle. Don’t just call until the CSI is filled out. Check in to make sure all of their questions are answered.

We would always make it a habit of calling them 30 minutes after they left the dealership. In the old days, we would do so in an effort to leave a message on their home answering machine, but with cell phones it’s a bit different. Perhaps your dealership is more comfortable sending a text message shortly after they leave congratulating them once again on their new car.

If you have a WeOwe, stay on top of it. Don’t make them ask for anything. Keep in touch with them before they call asking about it. The moment a part comes in, get them on the phone.

Follow Up Months, Even Years Later

There was a time when it was customary to send out birthday and Christmas cards to all of your customers. Today is a little different with political correctness sensitivities, but you can still send a birthday Facebook post on their wall!

Gettng a phone call one year after they purchased their car will be a differentiator. Few dealerships do it. There’s nothing uncomfortable about it. “Hi Mrs. Smith! I just wanted to give you a quick ring to tell you that it’s your car’s one-year anniversary! How is everything going?”

Most don’t want to do it because of the risk that something is not right, that they have a complaint about the car. You want to talk to them when they have challenges. It’s better to help them now, even a year after purchase, than to disappear and act like the uncaring car dealer they expect you to be. If you truly care (and you should), it will show.

Yes, we’ve seen reviews from people who bought their car a year or more in the past.

Take Pride in Being Different

Many car dealers won’t go the extra mile. They won’t continue to follow up. They don’t want to risk stirring up a “heat case”.

If you do the things that can separate you from the competition, your business and your reviews will improve. Your goal should be to deliver the type of experience they’ve never seen from anyone, let alone a car dealer.

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