Reputation Management versus Reputation Manipulation!
Anyone who follows what I publish and share within the auto industry, knows that reputation management is one of my “Hot Buttons” when it comes to Automotive Digital Marketing… Here comes the ACTUAL trick question;
“WHY does Ralph consider Reputation Management to be so Important?”
Because… Ask yourself, should the time and effort invested into the strategy and tactics necessary to thrill and delight our clients, be the core driver of our Reputation Management approach? But wait, there’s more. Let me take a few steps further… One of the objectives your reputation management strategy should entail is to flush out and make you aware of those customers who are not completely satisfied with their experience at your dealership. Do we want those 5 star reviews? Yes, of course we do, but the people who are buying cars this month don’t read those 5 star reviews, that we are so proud of, and our sister worked so diligently to create and post… It turns out that customers don’t read all our reviews, they read the 1, 2 and 3 star reviews. They want to know how competent the dealership they are considering doing business with, is when things go wrong. Does your management team respond to customer concerns (complaints) and make things right? (Resolve them)
Last week, Sara Callahan (President of Carter West PR) published an article titled “Negative Reviews Can Be Sales Gold!” which showcased several concepts that support my long held belief that it is the negative reviews that have the most value to a dealership… For example, the negative reviews get the majority of SEO ranking and placement. Along with the greatest share of customer page views. Sara Callahan wrote:
“While it’s generally true that consumers trust reviews from others, they are increasingly more interested in negative reviews than positive ones. For today’s savvy consumers, while those positive reviews will tell them how great the product or service is, what they really want to know is two-fold: what people who didn’t have a great experience have to say and how the company handled it.” Sara went on to state that: “Aside from the obvious natural cynicism many feel when seeing a product or service with tons of positive reviews – and the potential for some or many of those reviews to be manufactured – all they want to know is whether the product or service solves the problem they are looking to rectify, and does the company stand behind its offering.”
When we study page views on car dealer review sites, such as DealerRater, we see that negative reviews (1 star) consistently get 10 to 20 times the visitor traffic that 5 star reviews generate. Which leads me to sharing several insights gained… In the past, I have called customers who gave my dealership a negative review. To be completely transparent, I am not going to suggest that fixing their complaints was easy, and listening to their rants would have depressed experienced car people. However, I applied the principles I learned from working with the author and reading Car Sewell’s book “Customers For Life”. Basically, as I listened to these customers, some of which had posted their complaints as far back as two years ago, I took a deep breath and treated them the way Carl taught me, by valuing them as lifetime customers instead of just looking at the gross of the one deal we were discussing. Here are two of Carl Sewell’s “Ten Commandments” for customer service:
“3. Underpromise, overdeliver. Customers expect you to keep your word, but rather than merely keep it, exceed it. You never want to charge the customer more than the estimate. To ensure that this will happen, build yourself a cushion so that you will be able to deliver the goods at a lower cost if possible. This will make the customer like doing business with you; thus he will spend more money with you. There is the possibility of being able to charge the customer the inflated amount, but this is not a good idea. Keeping the difference is not as good or as profitable as keeping the customer. “You can sheer a sheep many times, but you can only skin it once.”
“4. When the customer asks something, the answer is always yes. When a customer asks if you can do something for them, the answer is always yes, providing the request is somehow related to your business. Even if you cannot figure out immediately how to do what they ask, the answer is still yes. Do not charge extra for things that a friend would do for another friend, you will more than make up the money in future business. Help your customer.”
As I resolved over a dozen customer concern issues (complaints), I asked that each of them consider changing their review from a 1 or 2 star to a 4 or 5 star… About half the customers edited their reviews. Several of them left the 1 or 2 Star rating but wrote a supplemental commentary describing how we contacted them and what we did to resolve their issues. During the 2 months following my concern resolution blitz several customers came into our showroom and commented on our Yelp Reviews. The sales people knew what I was working on, so they gathered information and/or asked me to say hello to their customer. During these conversations I was amazed to learn that in almost every instance, these customers had read one of the few 1 or 2 star rated reviews that we had resolved, and were positively impressed with how we made things right for the customer who originally posted the review. They looked me square in the eye and said that was why they were buying a car from us! What I learned was further supported by the metrics for the review sites and microsites we built and the traffic they received.
It appeared that the low star rated reviews with the happy endings added on to them by the customer were like a “Trojan Horse”. The prospective customers would go to them to see what horrible things we had done to our previous customers, but instead found how well we had resolved each and every customer concern, the loaner cars we gave them and the way we threw in a free detail after fixing whatever was wrong with their car, etc. The negative review drew their attention, and then when they were mega-focused on that originally nasty review, kapowee… They read the original complaint description and saw in the prospect’s own words, that our dealership had stepped up and made things right. That is what brought in more new car buyers than all the positive reviews combined.
As Sara Callahan stated in her article;
“It’s much easier – and more likely– for a person with a negative experience to leave a review because they are frustrated about their negative experience. Think about the last time you went to a restaurant and had a horrible experience. Maybe you waited forever to get acknowledged. Perhaps the food was sub-par. Whatever the reasoning, you are much more likely to tell the world about this type of experience because you are feeling emotionally wronged.” Callahan went on to write, “While it’s great to get good reviews, the real tell-tale sign of how a business is really treating its customers is how they respond to and handle negative reviews. Think about it: No business in the universe is going to fake negative reviews. And that’s why consumers trust negative reviews more than positive ones. Have you ever seen a news story where a company was accused of paying or planting negative reviews about themselves? Chances are slim that that it has ever happened.”
I chuckled when I read that, and considered calling Sara up and telling her that we don’t have to fake any negative reviews, and we are good at generating them for real!
Which brings me to my conclusion that we have an opportunity for a marketing win every time a negative review of our dealership is posted… Is making things right a pain in the arse? Yes, but the rewards are akin to selling 3 more vehicles for every negative review we can convert into a “Customer For Life”.