Positive online reviews are important to all businesses today. Consumers rely heavily on online ratings, social media shares and reviews, and they usually research online before making any purchase. For this reason, it’s critical to keep your dealership’s reviews positive, and research reinforces this:

  • Podium suggests that 93 percent of consumers say online reviews have an impact of their purchase decisions.
  • The same research from Podium also says that 3.3 is the minimum star ratings of a business consumers would consider engaging with.

How to Get Positive Online Reviews

We all agree that positive reviews are critical for any business. So how do you get good ratings? It’s not complicated: the best way to get good online reviews is to treat customers well. If a customer has a positive experience with you, he or she is unlikely to leave you a negative review online. A happy customer won’t jump online and say bad things about your business.

Unfortunately, customers are far more likely to leave bad reviews than good ones. Most people, even if they have a good experience, aren’t likely to take the time to write a positive review. People tend to head to the Internet to complain, not praise. An unhappy customer is far more likely to go online and write a negative review than a happy customer is to go online and write a positive review. To generate a positive buzz online, you first need to make your customers happy.

Don’t make people mad. It goes without saying, but we’re saying it anyway. Letting a customer (or potential customer) walk away angry is a recipe for disaster in so many ways.

Encourage the happy customers. Customers who are pleased with your business often need encouragement to write a review. To begin, hand them a reminder card when they take delivery of their vehicle. In a few days, send them an email asking them to kindly write a review. If that fails, give the customer a call a few weeks after the date of delivery.

Make asking for online reviews part of your culture. Customers’ reviews need to be discussed in meetings and factored into marketing campaigns. Sales people need to understand the importance of their personal online reputations and how to best encourage positive online feedback with customers.

Coach customers in how to write online reviews.  Not everyone has a knack for writing reviews, and everyone wants the process to be fast and easy, so consider helping them by directing them to a favored site (Yelp, for example, or Google) and outlining the steps for creating a review.

What Site Should You Encourage Customers to Use?

There are many sites where customers can write online reviews. Google, Facebook, Yelp and DealerRater are a few of the most popular. Most third-party vehicle shopping sites have a ratings section, as well. So how do you decide which site to ask customers to use? Good reviews aren’t much use to you if they’re spread out all over the Internet.

Google is always the safest bet because it has wide mass appeal and is familiar to most Internet users. To write a Facebook review, for example, a customer needs to have a Facebook account. To write a Yelp review, customers must be familiar with the site, and reviews might not display unless the customer is a frequent user.

To start, identify which network your dealership needs the most help on. If you have a 4.4 rating on Google, a 4.6 on DealerRater and a 3.8 on Facebook, it makes sense to focus on Facebook for a month or two. Concentrate on encouraging customers to go there and write a review. Once you’ve improved your rating, switch to recommending another site and put your energy into having customers write reviews for that site.

What NOT to Do:

Don’t try and cheat the system. It’s not going to work. No matter how smart you THINK you are, Google is smarter.  Organic reviews must come from living, breathing customers. Companies or services that claim they can improve your ratings are likely dangling a scam in front of you. It might SEEM like a good idea to try and have all your employees write positive reviews about your store online, but it’s not. Google’s algorithms are built to catch cheaters and it will be a tremendous waste of time in a best-case scenario. Google will track spikes in review activity and analyze it. If you get 10 reviews written by IP addresses grouped in the same location, for example, Google will notice.  In a worst-case scenario, you could find yourself banned from the review site. In the Internet Age, this is a disaster for any business.

The only way to improve or build your online reputation is the old-fashioned way: by treating customers well and working hard to encourage them to share their experiences online.