The car buying experience is not quite the same as checking into a hotel or dining at a restaurant. It’s not something that you just think of one night and follow through the next day. Typically, it’s something that takes time and heavy research, which makes shopping in the automotive industry, somewhat daunting. For Americans, purchasing a vehicle will be the second most expensive expense next to owning a house. Between the research stages through to the negotiation stages, there are hundreds of things to consider, such as financing programs, rebates, safety ratings, vehicle history reports, insurance, maintenance, loan costs, and more, all of which can affect customer reviews.
As shown in the 2014 J.D. Power study, automotive shoppers are likely to spend upwards of fourteen hours researching vehicles online, which includes using online shopping tools, making price comparisons, reading reviews, and visiting dealership websites. Other research studies have also shown that automotive industry shoppers are surprisingly active on leaving reviews and feedback online regarding their experiences. According to Cars.com, an automotive research website, used car sales feedback and reviews account for 38%, new car sales are 37%, and service are 24%.
In today’s competitive marketplace, we’re seeing shoppers using the Internet as their main research tool to influence their buying decisions. We are also seeing them use the Internet as their platform to share their feedback and customer experiences. In this new marketplace, we’re also seeing a shift in the mindset of dealers moving away from assuming that their relationship with customers starts when they enter the dealership. More and more, they are realizing that it begins way before that, online.
Dealers are starting to understand how to create experiences for each phase of the journey a buyer goes through, starting from awareness, straight through consideration, and ending at the decision. The shift isn’t surprising, as dealers are trying to keep up with the savvy vehicle shoppers of today. They (dealers) understand that nowadays before the buyer even steps foot in a dealership, they have already done their homework. They already know what vehicle suits them and where to shop for it. They are their peers, co-workers, friends, and family where they bought their car, along with finding out their experiences. On top of that, they’ll have looked at online reviews – both of the car and the dealership they’re looking to go to.
Though to some extent, dealerships might not have too much control over the data that influences their current and prospective customers, but they can ensure that their online reviews reflect a positive customer experience. If it doesn’t, you’re likely to lose a fair bit of prospective business. It’s a common assumption that the majority of online reviews are only posted if something goes wrong or by disgruntled customers who simply had unattainable expectations. This is, in fact, false. A study by Edmunds.com found over 90% of positive reviews over a month’s time. The majority of the reviews were towards the service or sales departments, with the most common title being “Great Experience”. Many reviews began with their feelings of hesitations, nervousness, and dread for the whole process, but ended up having a pleasant experience.
The keywords that were seen quite frequently in the study by Edmunds.com were:
- The salesperson went above and beyond to…
- …locate a certain vehicle,
- …deliver the vehicle to the customer
- …staying after hours
- The salesperson was attentive to their needs
- Polite and professional salesperson
- Final price matched the negotiations – no unwanted cost surprises
- No games
- Clear and prompt communication – in person, call, or email
- Quick process
- They listened to the customers’ needs
- Did not feel rushed
- Did not feel pressured
So, how can you encourage your dealership’s customers to actually post online reviews? Below we have four of the best ways you can get your buyers to post positive reviews.
- Asking Them in Person
There is no better way to get something then simply asking for it. The best way to do this though is to ask for reviews in person, as they are quite effective, especially if you the person asking has spent time with the potential reviewer. It’s been found that asking for reviews in person can actually garner you seven times to eight times more reviews than through emails.
For example, if a car salesperson stays with a potential customer for the entire process, including greeting them as they walk in, to shaking their hand when they finalize the purchase – they are the ideal person to ask the customer for a review. They would have spent a fair bit of time with them, possibly even connected with them over something aside from the car they are buying.
- The ‘Tip’ Trick
The ‘tip’ trick is one of the growth hacks that work particularly great in certain industries. The premise is that when you ask a customer for a review, you also add in something along the lines “If you had a great experience, be sure to include my first name on your review – the dealership gives me __ for every happy customer’s review.” That little extra detail can really be an incentive for people to write a review, particularly if they had a pleasant time.
- Asking Via Emails
This can get a bit trickier than other ways. In certain cases, you might not get a lot of ‘in-person’ time with a customer, therefore, you don’t get time to ask them for a review. In those situations, the only real option is asking through email. If you do decide to do this, it might be helpful to pre-screen your customers through internal surveys. This may avoid any negative reviews posted by those customers that were not overly happy with their experience.
Some things to consider:
- Send the email from a real person email address – preferably the salesperson that they communicated or dealt with.
- Have the email written by that person
- Include a clear call-to-action button or link
- Test HTML email vs. plain text emails
- Test various subject lines
- Test different email copies
- Organizational Initiatives
The best strategies start from the top and trickle down the management chain. So, making reviews a priority should be an organization-wide initiative. In order to do that, here are something to consider:
- Make positive reviews a top-down focus, encouraging the executives to promote and understand the importance.
- Aid in helping the employees understand the direct impact on the business of positive reviews
- Training employees on garnering reviews
- Developing some sort of point system to track reviews by location.
- Providing bonuses for those locations with the highest online review ratings.
That’s all good, but what if you receive a negative review in the process? The actual fact is that it is near impossible to achieve a complete 5-star experience history. But, negative reviews don’t always mean that your business Is bad. In fact, they can sometimes even help your business as they make the positive reviews look good. They also show consumers that your reviews are real, as dealerships with perfect reviews all around look inauthentic.
With that said, the first step of dealing with any sort of negative review is to not panic. The second step is, if you have the capability, publish those negative reviews as well. Resist the urge to delete all negative comments. The third step is to respond to those comments publicly to show your consumers that you care about the issue. The fourth step is to learn from these negative business and product reviews. The final step is to follow up, by making sure the customer is happy with the resolution, which might even convince them to change their review.
All in all, if you keep true to your dealership and offer the best possible customer experience to your customers, you do not have anything to worry about. Most times, your service will speak for itself through word-of-mouth and positive reviews. Ensure that your review process is mobile friendly, offer incentives to your loyal customers, and don’t be afraid to ask your customers for reviews on the most expensive vehicles.