The Deadliest Threat to Your Online Reputation

I have a different perspective about online reputation and ratings for car dealers.  It comes from my days working the line, selling cars, and from eventually managing stores that were consistently #1 in our market.  Our team always knew they were a vital part of delivering an outstanding experience.  The success of a business lies in a culture of fair and respectful interaction and collaboration.  There are those, however, that take a dangerous stance on how best to manage an online reputation.

As I write this post, I’m reflecting on a discussion I had at the Digital Dealer Conference.  Managing and improving online ratings was a topic at many of the workshops and for some, it seems to be as elusive as Big Foot or the perfect ice cream sundae.  There are great operators out there who have terrible online ratings.  Our discussion was about how best to remedy the situation.

My position is based on my management style and belief that the customer rules.  As an operator, if someone came to me with an issue, I always encouraged them to solve it.  I used to say “If it gets to me, it’s free”.  We treated everyone with respect because we always asked our selves the question: How much could a person spend with us in the course of a lifetime?  You don’t want to deal with somebody just once, you want to do business forever. Many owners I know have this same philosophy.  To communicate this in your online reviews is simply a task of elevating the reach of the system that’s already in place.

Some others in our discussion said they consider themselves “on the side of the dealer” (as if there were sides in this).  When did it become okay to be adversarial with your customer?  The customer is why we are here!  Your only source of competitive advantage is your people and the service they provide. This is no time to make it “us against them”.  The minute you go there, you’ve lost.

Generating a stellar online reputation takes leadership, commitment, focus and a foundation that’s built on treating the customer like a rockstar.   Treating your online customer as the enemy will kill any chances you have of building good will and ensuring positive reviews.  If your staff carries out this adversarial stance, you dig yourself deeper into the h***.

There are strategies and specific tactics to take with these online ratings platforms.  Most of your process is already in place and some training may be all you need to get going.  It’s a matter of simply enhancing your CSI procedures to include online ratings management.  Here are some pointers:

  • Make everyone in your store part of the ratings process.
  • Create awareness of your online presence.
  • Make sure each staff member knows what to say & when to mention you’d like them to talk about you online.
  • Motivate, recognize and reward your team as you meet your goals.
  • Include customer video testimonials throughout your web presence.

Negative ratings hurt everyone.  Taking an adversarial stance only compounds the pain.  The best strategy is to work online ratings into your daily operation.  There is no magic bullet, no “fix it and forget it”.  You must make good on every claim you make because promises mean nothing if your customers have friends who’re telling them otherwise.  A good system that’s managed well trumps every other solution to online reputation management.

Your customer is looking for good value and a good experience.  They want to know you and trust you.  They will let others know about their experience (online or offline).  You have many satisfied customers right now who can be compelled to tell their story.  There will always be the odd unsatisfied person so be proactive.  Tap into the relationships you have with your loyal, happy customers and communicate your real-life reputation online.  People are eager to know the truth.

Kathi Kruse
Social Media Coaching & Training

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Comment by SCOTT TYNER on November 27, 2011 at 8:45pm

Thanks Mrs. Kruse, this could not have been said any better.

Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 18, 2011 at 8:54am

Great posting Kathi, as the online landscape shifts once more to the zero moment of truth, consumers are more likely to research your reputation as well as your product and services. My wife, Debbie, reads and heeds reviews on virtually everything she considers or buys from hotels to restaurants, and certainly car dealerships. 

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