When auditing the web presence of a business for Local Search signals, one of the things I always look at is reviews on major platforms; such as Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp. Reviews can tell a lot about a business; such as the reputation and public perception the business holds, and how they handle complaints or conflicts with customers.
Often times, dealerships don’t respond to reviews at all. If they do, the responses are generic, insincere, and maybe even combative. This is a bigger problem than many dealers realize. Review content and review responses are a fairly significant part of search optimization (as much as 15% of at least 200 ranking factors). The keywords used in this space, as well as your actual star rating, can have a big impact the local search visibility of your brand.
Recently, I was doing an SEO audit for a potential client to find out if our services would be a good fit for them. One of the things that really struck me about this particular dealer was how they handled their reviews. Not only did the General Sales Manager at the dealership respond to every review, but each response was incredibly well researched and tailored to the customer. He addressed each person by name and responded to every item they brought up – good or bad. He was incredibly thorough in his approach, offering proof, solutions, and even discounts when needed. If there was a miscommunication, he made sure it was clarified by speaking to all parties involved. If there was something the dealership had made a mistake on, he admitted and apologized for it. His attention to detail really impressed me, and made even me want to do business with them (even though they are in another state).
Here’s the takeaway: review responses matter, but it’s not just what you say – it’s how you say it. The level of attention you give to an issue can make or break a customer’s perception of your business; and influence your future foot traffic. Here are some tips to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward when managing your online reputation.
Use the customer’s first name. People like to hear their name. Addressing each customer personally adds a level of respect and attention that has a positive psychological influence.
Address each point made. Whether the review is in praise of good customer service from a specific employee, or in critique of a perceived injustice, do MORE than just saying ‘thank you’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ Be specific and reference each of the items mentioned in the review. This will show that you actually read and absorbed what the customer had to say. There is nothing worse than posting the same generic response to every single review. You’re not a robot and neither are car buyers; so don’t talk like one!
Do your homework. Follow up on the information given in the review. If they are claiming a negative experience with a specific department or employee, reach out internally to clarify what was actually done or said. You can even check your CRM to see if this is a real customer or not. Utilize that feedback when you respond to show that you actually looked into the situation to get all of the information. Often times, this information can help provide a more well-rounded understanding of what actually happened.
Offer empathy and help when practical. If your team did make a mistake, own it and offer a solution. This could be in the form of a discount, a request to speak personally with the customer and revisit the concern, etc. Often times, customers just want to feel heard, and showing that you want to make things right is enough for them to revise their review.
Don’t lose your cool. Sometimes customers make outrageous claims or falsify the truth. This is true for every business across every industry across the world. Don’t be ‘that guy’ and lose it. Don’t sink to their level by being accusatory, calling them names, etc. Focus on facts and solutions while remaining even-tempered. You may think this goes without saying, but believe me; all to often business owners overreact in defense of their businesses. This does way more harm than good.
Respond to ALL reviews. Often times, dealers will respond to either positive or negative reviews, but not both. You need to show gratitude for customers who share their positive interactions with your business. You also need to address concerns from customers who have less-desirable things to say. If you’re only doing one or the other, it may seem like you only care about certain types of customers. Note: There are of course cases in which a customer may be threatening legal action. Whether or not this is a legitimate threat, it is ok to not respond to these types of reviews without first obtaining legal counsel.
Take reviews with a grain of salt. You can’t please everybody, and sometimes there is nothing you can do to curb a customer’s anger. Occasionally even the most positive interactions receive critique. Keep in mind that as long as you’re doing your best to provide excellent customer service, you’re doing your job.
Remember: reviews are about much more than addressing customer sentiment. They are important for helping you rank better in search, and showing both existing and prospective car buyers why you’re a good business to buy from.
Getting better at responding to reviews can add a ton of value to your business operations, both online and in person. For more information about reputation management, check out these posts about fake reviews and asking customers for reviews, or ask me a question in the comments below.