Grow with Online Reviews

Order Reprints

In recent years, online reviews have become an important referral source. According to research firm Search Engine Land, “92 percent [of consumers] have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business,” “85 percent of consumers said they read up to 10 reviews,” “68 percent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more,” and “88 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”

According to J.D. Power’s Customer Service Index Study, which surveys 60,000–70,000 customers throughout the industry about their service experience, 10–20 percent of service center customers use ratings and review sites to help them select a dealer for service. And while that might sound low, says Chris Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power, if you take away the percentage of customers who are already loyal to a dealer, that number skyrockets significantly. And the difference between vehicle brands is negligible, he says, meaning generating and managing online reviews is important for fixed operations departments across all brands.

Sutton breaks down the steps to generating and managing online reviews to drive new customers.


Before You Start: Understand the Importance.

There are a lot of reasons why reviews are important, Sutton says. One, it’s third-party validation.Seeing the opinion of other customers goes a long way toward establishing trust and credibility,which is pretty significant considering all of the options customers have online. The other side of things is that search engines like Google will look at and use those types of reviews to further establish your credibility as a valuable resource online.

If you have reviews, you can also install different widgets on your website that will have those reviews appear in the search result. It helps make your listing on search engines stand out and attract attention.

Finally, Sutton says what’s important to understand about SEO and getting those rankings higher is that search engines look at who’s clicking on those links and who’s not coming back to the sites. They’re evaluating your site and clickability, so if many customers are rating your departments favorably, it’s another indicator that the dealership is worth increasing in the rankings.


1. Deliver outstanding service.

The most important component of online reviews is that you can’t beg customers to leave them. They have to want to write a review, Sutton says, so first and foremost, you have to over-deliver on service and quality. Take their temperature, either through one-on-one conversations or the manufacturers’ post-service surveys, and make sure that you are doing a good job and that your customers are happy with your service.

“What we’ve found is that customers who have an average experience, someone who rates their experience as a 6–8, that customer, even if we are executing the best marketing and our people are following up with the customer, that person is still not as likely to leave a review as the customer who has an outstanding experience,” Sutton says. “While there is an emphasis on following up with the customer and being proactive about it, the first step is you have to deliver a good experience. ...

When a customer has a truly great experience, we can ask them for a review and have a reasonable expectation that they will leave a good review.”


2. Identify the review sites to use.

Sutton says that for fixed operations departments, those that are most useful are DealerRater, Google, Yelp and Facebook. Identify 3–5 target review sites, create an account, claim your listing and make sure your information is accurate and consistent with your website. In particular, Sutton says to double-check that your company name, physical address, phone number, website address and email address are all completely filled in and exactly match the information on your website.


3. Make it easy. 

Many people are already web-savvy, but it may be helpful to create a quick how-to flyer or a landing page that provides easy instructions for posting a review online, Sutton says.

Make it easy for customers to review your business with a prominent button on your website or a link in your email or printed marketing materials that takes customers to your review sites, Sutton says.

Once a customer is there, there is a button that says “Write a Review,” which a customer clicks and is taken through the simple steps to write a review.


4. Ask for reviews. 

The art to this is to make it seem like you are not asking, Sutton says. Wait until the sale is complete and customers have gotten their car back and have had time to be happy with your service.

You can ask for reviews in person, over the phone or via email. Sutton also notes that many manufacturers have started to ask customers for online reviews after they call regarding the customer service experience survey, which can be effective. Furthermore, even if there is an issue with a repair, if the situation is handled well and resolved, that can be an organic time to ask for a review, Sutton says.

Another important consideration to note is that while both Gen Y and Gen X customers are more likely to both post and rely on reviews, baby boomer and pre-boomer customers are just as likely to use reviews to select their provider of choice, Sutton says. That means it’s critical not to stereotype those generations and thus overlook customers when asking for online reviews.


5. Respond to reviews. 

Monitor your online reputation and keep track of reviews—positive, negative or mediocre. Sutton says to treat negative reviews as opportunities to show the particular reviewer, and anyone else that reads it, that you are paying attention and willing to work to improve your performance. Don’t get defensive. Instead, try to reach them directly, address it and try to connect with them.

Negative feedback is an opportunity for your business to earn customer trust and boost your online reputation. Make sure you respond to negative reviews in a proactive and polite manner. If possible, respond publicly to disgruntled customers to show everyone that you try to keep your customers satisfied.

Related Articles

Boost Business with Online Reviews

Managing Your Shop’s Online Reviews

Handling Negative Online Reviews

You must login or register in order to post a comment.