Make car reviews work for you, Mr Dealer

11 November 2013

The first thing most of us do when we’re researching a car is to ask other people what they think. While the first stop will usually be friends and family, we will also turn to the opinion of complete strangers writing reviews and comments online.

But how much does do online views sway our judgement?  An October 2013 report by Maritz Research reveals that most of us approach these reviews with a healthy dose of scepticism.   Almost a quarter of the  3,000+ survey respondents who used review and rating sites, felt the information wasn’t correct, with 16% saying it was too negative and 9% too positive. The 13 sites reviewed included two automotive sites: Dealer Rater and Edmunds.com, as well as review sites in the hospitality and restaurant sectors. There’s some disagreement over how influential such sites are. 

According to a separate 2013 study by Digital Air Strike 70% of car buyers say that online reviews of dealerships influences where they choose to buy. Maritz, however, found that 41% of respondents hadn't gone to a traditional third-party review site, automotive or non-automotive, in more than two years, and automotive sites were the least visited of all the sectors it looked at. It also found that consumers paid more attention to the customer comments than any star rating the product or service received, as they tried to read between the lines of what the reviewer is really saying and whether they were genuine or not.

Honesty pays

So what does this mean for car dealers and manufacturers? It means that like consumers, you should take what’s said with a grain of salt and not an actual measure of performance. But more interestingly, Maritz vice president, David Ensing, suggested in an Automotive News story that dealers should take the initiative by putting their own customer satisfaction index or CSI survey, used to monitor just how well dealers are meeting their customers’ needs, to better use.

Dealerships should proactively ask customers to give a rating as many of the third-party sites do, as well as make comments. Then they should post these on their website (providing they have customer permission).

It’s important, for the sake of credibility to post all comments, even if they are negative. Highlighting the not-so-good as well as the glowing reports will help convince website visitors that the reviews are from real customers and will also help reinforce your credibility as an honest and trustworthy organisation.

Posting a comment under the review to show how you have solved this problem will also fortify your image as a dealership that listens to its customers and puts their needs first.  But like all website content, these comments need to be updated regularly.

You cannot ignore what people say on social media or review sites, but you can turn it to your advantage.

About the author

Tom Cregg has been in the automotive industry since 1983, having started with Mercedes-Benz at its UK headquarters.  Since then, Tom has occupied a number of senior regional operational and management roles including with Daimler-Chrysler and SAGE Auto Group in the United States. 

Passionate about connecting automotive manufactures with their customers, Tom has been involved in developing some of the industry’s most intelligent business tools and e-commence systems designed to provide sales, marketing and services teams with a single view of customers.

Tom is a sought after industry expert, helping clients develop business strategies and technological capabilities to better identify and convert new prospects into loyal customers.   He believes the industry has much to learn from retailers including how to engage consumers across multiple touch points and channels including the internet, showroom and service centres. 

Tom is currently spearheading the development of an industry-wide business intelligence tool to connect multiple systems including customer relationship management (CRM) to change the way dealers create and manage sales and service customer experiences so brand loyalty drives sales.  

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