According to a study by Think with Google, 92 percent of car buyers conduct their own research online before they buy. This means that managing your dealership’s online reputation is more critical now than ever before. Positive Google or Yelp reviews can affect your dealership’s website traffic and ranking, leading to an increase in sales. To find out more about reputation management and the findings of the recent 2019 Automotive Reputation Report, we spoke to Joe Fuca, CEO of Reputation.com.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thanks so much for joining us on another edition of CBT news. Today I’m so happy to be joined by Mr. Joe Fuca who is the CEO of Reputation.com. Welcome to CBT news, Joe.
Joe Fuca: Thanks. Good to be here and happy Monday.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. So walk us through the key findings of the 2019 automotive reputation report that you guys have just recently completed.
Joe Fuca: Yeah, Jim. Basically what we did is we took a look at 16,000 dealerships in the US-
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s almost all of them.
Joe Fuca: It is all of them. Well, I guess you could look at it, if they have an online presence, then we have them in the report. Right?
Jim Fitzpatrick: This is new car franchises are independents as well.
Joe Fuca: Independents. Anybody who has an online view to the consumer. So really-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. In the automotive space. Okay. All right. Gotcha.
Joe Fuca: So what we did is, you’ll see that we broke it down into many factors of course. It could be brands, it could be groups, it could be large dealers versus small. It could be-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.
Joe Fuca: But it really is just US only. Just to kind of give you a little bit of an idea, as a company, our whole basis of the company was set up so that we can gather data on companies that have an online presence. This isn’t new to us in terms of being able to pull in 16,000 dealerships. Basically what the report does, it pulls together all this data and then give some valid and really important feedback, back to the ownerships to see kind of where their strengths and weaknesses are.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. Great. Let’s dive right in. What OEMs have the most successful reputation out there?
Joe Fuca: Well, okay, really interesting. So what’s funny is that some people have kind of jumped on the, let’s dig in on Tesla family lately. Tesla ended up being second to last in our grouping.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Really?
Joe Fuca: The funny thing is that as we all know, the CEO is pretty active when it comes to being online. If you look at the reputation score of Tesla, it’s second to last. So that kind of jumps off the page and we’ll talk a little bit more later why that is. Some of the brands that did great were Lexus. They were number one. I think when you think of service and you think of that nice welcoming that they give you as well as the follow up.
Joe Fuca: Remember the key to this type of report is your engagement with your customers and the ability to not only answer their positive reviews, but also they’re negative reviews. Again, it’s all about engagement with the customer. So really both Lexus did really well. Then Tesla ended up second to last.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. Who is last by the way?
Joe Fuca: Last was Mitsubishi. Good question. But for some reason no one’s picking that up, but they’re all kind of jumping in a little bit on the Tesla just because it’s more of an online scenario there. But really-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. That’s a shock though, because those people are pretty loyal to that brand and they really have become huge fans or at least it seems. That is somewhat of a shocker that they would come in so low.
Joe Fuca: Well, we dug in a little deeper and really at the end of the day, as you probably know, they have these places that you can go to buy, kind of a studio if you will. But they don’t really have a lot of your classic local dealerships where you can bring your car in for service.
Joe Fuca: So remember this report is on 16,000 dealerships for both sales and service. That’s the key thing to remember. I think Tesla’s getting pulled down because they frankly don’t answer reviews. So when these consumers leave reviews on their service capability, their ability to be short wait time when they leave the car, or the ability to actually give them some analysis on what’s going wrong with the car.
Joe Fuca: They’re getting really low marks, not so much on the sales side, which I think you and I both know there’s a cult following there. People love them.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.
Joe Fuca: But on the service side, not so and so that’s probably why they’re ranking so low.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. All right. What about dealer groups? How are we doing in that area?
Joe Fuca: Well, when you think about dealer groups, this is where you get people that they kind of take it to another level in terms of reputation, both Hendrick as well as AutoNation have been longtime customers of Reputation.Com. Now, this report has nothing to do with us specifically. It really has to do with just how are these dealerships and groups and dealers doing with their consumers and how their customer satisfaction rating is.
Joe Fuca: We know because of our five year history with AutoNation and our two year history with Hendrick. That they take the score really serious and for the fact that they’re both quoted in this report about how they look at the reputation score every Monday morning as part of their executive team.
Joe Fuca: What’s important to them is how each dealerships doing. They kind of run a competition and the competition basically is, how are we engaging our customers? What does that score look like week to week? Really remember there’s about seven different things that influence the score, right? So it’s number of reviews, it’s the star ratings in the reviews, there’s the recency of reviews because you don’t want it to be so old. Nobody could care less about what you did a year ago.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, what is the methodology of the… Is it all online after a customer has either engaged their service department or taken delivery of a newer used vehicle? Is it immediate?
Joe Fuca: Yeah, so-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Walk me through that?
Joe Fuca: Well, think of any interaction that you have with a dealership. Rather if you’re buying a car or asking about what inventory they have and the salesperson being straight with you and then-
Jim Fitzpatrick: Also it’s not even necessarily customers, these could be shoppers as well.
Joe Fuca: Oh yeah. In fact, if you look at the sales experience, there’s probably 30 to 40% of the negative reviews are non-buyers, right? Because they just didn’t buy.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. Yeah, typically they’re going to give you maybe a bad review because you didn’t come down to the price that they wanted and therefore they moved on.
Joe Fuca: Exactly. They’re moving on and they’re leaving a bad review. But if you think about it, the interesting thing is that all these different events matter to the dealership. So whether it’s a dealer group or a dealership, that interaction is so personal and so important, not only on the sales side, but obviously on the service side.
Joe Fuca: What we do is we track about nine different meters that matter. So was it easy to find the dealership? Did they come up high on the search rankings? How did they rank in terms of being able to find the dealership as well as the ranking together? All of that matters because we need to make it super easy.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, you’re dead on. I mean, a report like this and this kind of feedback for a dealer manager and dealer principle is vital if it’s… Because this is real world stuff. I mean this is where the rubber meets the road, right? You’re getting information directly from the consumer. Not in real time, but sounds like it’s pretty close to real time.
Joe Fuca: It is pretty close. All of it’s real time in terms of reporting and you can get it on an hourly basis or a daily basis. A lot of the dealerships are looking at it every day. They’ll respond within hours of a positive or negative review. Remember this also tracks all the social media interaction, right?
Joe Fuca: So if I’ve got Twitter interactions… Heck, I could have someone who’s been sitting in the lobby waiting for their car tweeting the GM of the dealership and he wants to know about that right now. So there’ll do social tracking and jump on it right now.
Joe Fuca: So it’s a very different approach than let’s say an example like J.D. Power with NPS where they’re doing sort of these studies on people that have either purchased or done service. Where they’ll do more of like a customer success index study, which could be a kind of a 25 page study on what that buying experience look like. What could they do better.
Joe Fuca: This is very different. This is online, unfiltered, right now kind of data and really the kind of thing you want to do is sort of match, I call them the unfiltered data. We call it data in the wild, which means you and me leaving our impressions online without being asked anything.
Joe Fuca: That’s in the wild. Then there’s structured data which people have been doing for years, which are these sort of NPS studies which are helpful and important, but they better match the unfiltered. Otherwise you really don’t know what’s going on.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure. How does a dealer increase their reputation score?
Joe Fuca: Yeah, it really comes down to… So the reputation score, remember is the index almost like a FICO score from zero to 1,000 in the industry. So what you want to do is increase your score and the only way to increase your score is to look at those nine metrics I told you about earlier and just make sure you’re engaging and that you have a social media strategy.
Joe Fuca: If those dealers don’t have executive support to make sure that they’re really following the reputation score and whether it’s tracking up. I’ll give you an example. So one of the big things that we found out of the report is we actually had raw sales data by dealership for up to 10,000 dealerships. We didn’t talk about which ones we want to leave it generic.
Joe Fuca: But what we notice is that the dealerships whose reputation score went up five to 6% over a year period, it was clear that the sales were going up somewhere in the 10 to 12% area. So as the rep score was going up, their sales were increasing. And as the rep score was going down, in some cases their sales were decreasing.
Joe Fuca: So we have a pretty good study on that. So it tracks where people can actually really use that rep score to kind of tell them the health of not only what’s going on with their customers, but also the health of their business.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Talk to us about the importance of reputation management in the overall customer experience strategy of a dealership. That’s all we hear about today is it’s all about the customer experience, right? I mean that really trumps everything. Low prices, and easy convenient locations, and big, huge dealerships that dealers are building. But it’s really all about that customer experience, right? From the time they click call or walk in the front door, how does this help that?
Joe Fuca: Yeah. I think if you look at the reputation management part of it, some of the strongest dealers since the beginning of time in auto have always put a real respect and almost honorability in being able to talk to that consumer about their experience. So even without a product that automates it, there’s always been this sort of GM presence where the general manager really wants his consumers to feel they’ve been treated well. Whether that’s a salesperson side competence.
Joe Fuca: Reputation management comes in as where we can automate what they’re saying about that sales experience or that service experience. Then we can actually dissect it. We use artificial intelligence because the amount of data coming in. I mean, just pick any big OEM and you’re talking about millions and millions of points of interest, right?
Joe Fuca: So you have to be able to gather all that data and then bring it up to a certain level. And in the report it actually does that. It’ll pull it up on customer service, on sales competency. We’ve even got an attribute called sales pressure tactics.
Joe Fuca: Then on the service side, it’s everything from quality of the person telling you exactly what your car might had a problem. To what actually happened at the end state. So really important that we pull all that information up as we go through it for the OEM and as well as the dealership.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Joe Fuca, CEO of Reputation.com I want to thank you so much for sharing these insights with us today on CBT news. I know our dealers will get a lot out of it. For dealers that are listening, as you know it’s all about your reputation nowadays. Checkout Reputation.com and I think you’re going to like what you see. So thanks very much, Joe. I appreciate it.
Joe Fuca: Yeah, thanks a lot, Jim. If they want a copy of the reputation report, we’ll obviously have a link and we’ll set it up to make it easy for them.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Thank you very much.
Joe Fuca: Great.
Jim Fitzpatrick: Great. Thank you.
Joe Fuca: Have a great day.
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