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Online Review Services that Bring Credibility to the Shop

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Every shop claims to be the best in town. Many advertise that on their website, and some even have customer testimonials to back it up. But consumers know businesses share only the positive comments, so those don’t often carry much weight, says Dusty Dunkle, president of Customer Research Inc. (CRI).

In fact, only 14 percent of consumers trust advertising, according to a study conducted by National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) University. What they do trust—near unanimously at a whopping 78 percent—is recommendations from their  peers.

“The online ratings and review space is quickly growing in popularity,” Dunkle says. Websites such as Yelp (see FenderBender’s April 2010 story, “Yelp Help,” for more information on that service), Yellow Pages and Manta are a key part of the consumer’s process in choosing whether to do business with you, says Leonard Lassak, vice president of operations for Kirmac Automotive Collision Systems Inc. Consumers use those online reviews to validate what they’ve heard from family and friends.

The problem, as you may have experienced, is that online review forums don’t always reflect your business accurately. Some shop owners have been scrambling to address negative online reviews—some of which are posted by people just pretending to be customers of the business.

“People want to read the most current information possible. Recent reviews make them much more relevant and valuable.”     
—Leonard Lassak, vice president of operations,
Kirmac Automotive Collision Systems Inc.

Enter SureCritic (online at surecritic.com), a customer rating and review service for automotive businesses. CRI resells SureCritic, which helps shops acquire business reviews from a large number of recent and real customers.
The service provides shops with credible reviews, so owners can get a better handle on how they’re doing, and use real customer concerns to develop improvements. In the end, it’s all about boosting customer satisfaction indexing (CSI) scores and protecting shop reputations.

The Problem

Online business review websites clearly carry weight when consumers are choosing where to have their car repaired. Your customers—through written reviews—are developing your shop’s reputation on your behalf. Sometimes what they say is good, but sometimes it’s not. And unwarranted negative comments have unfairly affected some shop owners.

One-sided online reviews have harmed many CRI clients, Dunkle says. According to their reputation online—which essentially is their whole reputation these days—they look like horrible shops.

And yet these same shops were pulling in impressive customer service indexing (CSI) scores. Somehow, the real-life experience didn’t match the online story. So what gives? Dunkle identifies three main reasons that stellar shops sometimes end up with sorry reviews online:

• Extreme experiences Most people who take the time to rate businesses online only do so after extreme experiences. They’re either really satisfied, or really dissatisfied. That’s a problem because there’s a huge middle section of shop customers who aren’t represented in those reviews. So those extreme cases don’t accurately reveal a shop’s performance on a daily basis.

• No validity metric In most online review forums, there is no way to know whether real shop customers post reviews, Dunkle says. There are body shops that write poor reviews of the competition in attempt to steal business, and there are body shops that ask their friends to write positive reviews about the business to improve their reputation.

“Review websites are worthless if you don’t know whether posts are valid or not,” Dunkle says. “That’s a terrible problem throughout the entire review space.”

• Longevity of reviews Reviews on some websites, like Yelp.com, stick around for up to five years, Dunkle says. Reviews that old often aren’t relevant.

In some cases, a customer complaint gets posted regarding a problem the shop was able to resolve quickly thereafter. In other cases, negative reviews occur while shops were under previous management. Those reviews don’t properly—or currently—reflect the business, yet they remain visible to the public for years, Dunkle says.

SureCritic’s Solution

The purpose of SureCritic is to offset other business review websites that might be damaging your shop’s reputation with inaccurate information. SureCritic representatives call your customers, ask a few questions about their experience, and post the review on a SureCritic Business Review Page (BRP) affiliated with your business.

Don’t think this service is all about conjuring up those positive testimonials for advertising purposes, though. Every review gets posted—the good, the bad and the ugly, Lassak says, whose company has used SureCritic since its launch in February.

So with those bad reviews in the mix, what’s the point? SureCritic offers a few differentiators from other review forums that provide more value and credibility to readers, and to your business, by:

• Posting CSI results. SureCritic BRPs display a shop’s average CSI results, which shows potential customers how you regularly perform. And star ratings on SureCritic tend to be about 60 percent higher than those on other review forums. Dunkle says many shops that average a 96 percent CSI only average star ratings of 3.8 out of 5 on many review websites. SureCritic directly translates a shop’s average CSI into a star rating, which gives a 96 percent CSI body shop a rating of 4.7 stars.

• Verifying real customers. Every customer SureCritic calls is verified to be an actual customer of the shop. A logo is posted next to that customer’s review to denote the authenticity of the comments.

• Providing recent customer experiences. SureCritic reviews are all recent and relevant customer experiences that are imported daily to a shop’s BRP, Dunkle says.

“People want to read the most current information possible,” Lassak says. “Recent reviews make them much more relevant and valuable.” Some review websites will have multiple-month gaps between reviews that get posted, which is not helpful to anyone.

• Offering a large customer sampling. SureCritic polls a huge portion of shop customers, sometimes up to 100 a month, Dunkle says. The polls include the entire cross-section of a shop’s customer base. That allows shops to acquire reviews from those middle customers, not just the ones who experience extreme situations.

With more reviews, SureCritic also draws attention away from other sites. Due to the sheer volume of customers polled, SureCritic’s BRPs tend to obtain far more reviews for automotive businesses than any other forum.

Consumers are likely to put more credibility into review websites that have the highest number of reviews, says Christian Hassold, president and CEO of CollisionBuzz, a social media marketing company. And user-generated content drives traffic; that’s the number one priority for search engine rankings.

For that reason, Stu Damron, CEO of Sprayglo Auto Refinishing and Body Repair, says SureCritic reviews have increased his company’s search engine rankings when you search the Internet for his company.

ReScore

So how does this help you improve your customer service offering? Remember, just like every other review forum, you will receive negative comments every now and then. It’s important to pay attention to those, and follow up with customers to address their concerns. If you do, your customers—and everyone else who reads the reviews—will see the effort you put forth to satisfy every customer who comes through your shop even after their repair process is over.

SureCritic makes it easy to deal with a negative review. Damron says he receives an email alert every time SureCritic generates a poor customer review about his business, or if he receives a star rating lower than four. He then has 14 days before the comment goes live on the company’s BRP.

The goal of that 14-day window is to give shops an opportunity to resolve customer issues before their complaint can be seen by the rest of the world. Dissatisfied customers often change their feelings about a business when their problem is properly addressed and resolved by the company, Dunkle says.

When a customer complaint is successfully resolved, Damron says he can use a process called ReScore to post an additional review beside the original. CRI recalls the customer, and gathers new comments and star rating about their experience with the shop. The new information is added to his shop’s BRP to accurately reflect the customer’s entire experience, and whether or not they ultimately went home happy.

Those original negative reviews are never deleted, but that’s not all bad, Damron says. When potential customers can see the way Sprayglo handles tough situations, it allows them to also see the shop cares about its customers enough to follow up, it’s easy to work with and it aims to satisfy.

“The biggest benefit is simply being able to hear about customer issues and to have an avenue to get them fixed,” Damron says. “You have to understand the value of a lifetime customer. We don’t see customers as a $1,000 repair order. We see customers as a $10,000 customer over the next 15 years.”

Encourage Online Participation

SureCritic can certainly help you manage your online reputation, but the truth is that other websites are still commonly used by consumers and aren’t going away anytime soon. It is important to keep monitoring what is being said about your business all over the Internet.

Dunkle recommends promoting a variety of online review forums to your customers. He says it’s a good idea to research the most commonly used business review websites in your area, email the website link to every customer you serve and ask them to write a review about their experience.

“Encouraging customers to rate your business on popular review websites is huge for your online reputation,” Dunkle says. “The more people you get to do that, the more you’re going to get true and accurate reflections of your business.”
CollisionBuzz’s Hassold agrees: You have to encourage and entice your customers to give you reviews, she says. But don’t just dig for positive testimonials; they must be real, honest reviews.

“It’s a great barometer to track your performance as an independent business,” Hassold says.

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