No dealership likes negative online reviews, but according to the latest report from DealerRater, dealers who respond correctly and in a timely manner have a better than fifty percent chance of either getting it removed or getting a positive review reposted.

Why online reviews matter

Alongside the fact that it is now widely used to research both new and used cars, the internet has also become a place where consumers can view the ratings of car dealers, based on reviews that customers post to these sites.

online reviews, negative online reviews

What makes these sites so compelling, is the fact that car dealers have little or no control over what their customers can post to them. This isn't a problem if the comments are all positive, but as those of us in the car business know from experience, there is no way you can please all of your customers all of the time.

So just how important are online reviews?

DealerRater points out that a recent survey conducted by BrightLocal notes that many consumers look at more than one review. In fact, when looking at a single company:

  • 24 percent of consumers surveyed check 2 to 3 reviews
  • 32 percent of consumers surveyed check 4 to 6 reviews
  • 17 percent of consumers surveyed check 7 to 10 reviews
  • In the same study, 45 percent of consumers surveyed would not consider a business with a rating equal or less than 2 stars on an overall scale of 5 stars

Responding to negative online reviews

The results of the survey mean that while good online reviews are great for a dealership's business, if enough negative reviews are posted, it could significantly affect a dealer's bottom line, while harming that businesses' reputation.

So what can dealers do when a negative comment is posted to a ratings website? The best advice is to respond as quickly as possible to that customer. According to DealerRater, a survey by Right Now found that when businesses reached out by offering to reconcile outstanding issues with disgruntled customers:

  • 34 percent voluntarily withdrew their original complaints without being asked
  • Another 33 percent responded by reposting a positive review

DealerRater notes that:

Dealerships need to recognize that while they might be responding to a single customer, their replies are visible to everybody with a computer or smartphone.

At the same time, dealers need to understand the root cause of the issue as "it's also critical to avoid accepting blame for any particular issue negative reviewers might have. Until your business is able to establish a line of communication with the unsatisfied commenter and determine the true cause of the problem, apologizing is premature and could show future customers that your dealership is prone to making the same mistakes if they should ever do business with you. There will be situations where an apology is absolutely necessary and the only proper response for the dealership, but it is imperative that the dealership be able to discern when to offer to investigate and when to apologize."

The Bottom Line

Because a growing number of potential consumers are first checking online reviews, it's absolutely critical that dealers quickly respond to these customers, investigate and establish the root cause, offer to reconcile any outstanding issues and apologize, if absolutely necessary, only when and if it's the proper response.

There is, however, one thing we feel your dealership should find necessary: the most effective high-margin solution for your special finance department. Call us at 888-535-2277 or fill out the contact form on our website and we'll have one of our specialists contact you regarding our lead and software solutions. They'll demonstrate to you why we are the preferred lead and subprime software provider for many of the most successful dealerships in the United States and Canada.