Automotive Online Reputation Management: Controlling the Uncontrollable


Sometimes digital marketing can be a bit frustrating. It’s easy to feel like every time you decide to invest in something, something else happens to make it ineffective or difficult. You invest in your organic Facebook presence? Facebook’s algorithm changes and pushes this content further down users’ News Feeds. You start using a tool that provides helpful pop-ups to users? Google decides to automatically block most pop-ups. There are so many factors outside of your control, that it might seem futile to even try.

Well, we’re here to say– turn that frown upside down! There might be some unforeseen circumstances that change your plans, but all is not lost. Within each strategy you might deploy, there are steps that you can and should take to control even the uncontrollable parts. This is certainly true of dealership reviews.

We’ve already discussed why reviews are important, and how your dealership should use them. That might all sound nice, but when it comes down to it, there are certain factors that are outside of your control. For example…

  • A customer gives a negative review that you don’t deserve
  • Yelp filters out a positive review
  • Happy customers forget to write reviews

There are real actions your dealership can take to gain control of these types of things, and ensure that you are getting the most out of all of your reviews. Let’s dive in.

Gain positive reviews by deserving them

The simplest way to compel customers to leave a review, and avoid negative reviews, is to provide people with the very best experience. From their first interaction with your dealership on your website or social media pages, customers should feel that they are receiving personalized attention. The online experience should be a natural extension of your store– just like your salespeople work hard to provide people with information that they actually want, your website should as well. That way, when they do walk into your store, they already have positive associations with your dealership.

Recognize that customers think about every step of their buying process when they sit down to write a review, recommend a company to a family member or friend, or simply reflect on their purchase. Think about how you can optimize each stage as well as the entire buying experience to make your customers as happy as possible. Happy customers are more likely to leave positive reviews.

Learn the rules to avoid getting filtered

Every review website has its own rules. The purpose of these rules is not simply to frustrate businesses, even if it might seems like it is. Websites like Yelp and Google try to weed out spam and fake reviews by filtering suspicious postings. Understanding how each of these platforms works and what drives their filters will help you avoid getting your positive reviews removed.

As a prime example: Google tries to prevent the same person from publishing several reviews for the same company under different names. To do so, it filters reviews coming from the same IP address. The idea is that no one IP address should produce more than one review– if it does, it is immediately suspected of being up to no good. What dealerships might not realize is that this rule also applies to their own store. So, if you set up an iPad station for people to complete reviews in your store, they might all be marked as spam. Take control by encouraging customers to submit reviews from their own homes– send them email and text reminders to fill them out, off-premises.

Negative reviews as opportunities

We know, it’s not a nice feeling to receive a bad review. You work hard to give every customer a good experience, and the one person who was unhappy with you or even with just one of your staff members can spoil it for the rest. Instead of taking this bad review as a personal insult, take a deep breath, step back, and think of the best way to respond.

Oftentimes, an upset customer just wants to be heard. Don’t simply respond by saying that “we’re so sorry to hear that they’re upset;” they’ll recognize this as scripted. Try to actually solve their problem, by offering real solutions. Give them the direct contact details of the person who might be able to help them. This way, you can show them (and future customers) that you’re willing to go the extra mile.

You can also learn important things about your dealership from these negative reviews. Your dealership can actually reach out to the person who wrote the negative review to learn more about what happened. Is this person simply cranky, or is there a bigger problem to address? Is there something wrong with the way a department is being run? How can it be improved?

Don’t lose track of your reviews

This is one area that you really are in control, but it’s not always easy. If you do manage to get positive reviews that aren’t getting filtered, you need to be on top of them. Make sure that you are monitoring all of the various websites and platforms on which reviews might be posted. Set up alerts to be notified when your dealership is mentioned anywhere on the web, through tools like Google Alerts and Mention. When you see a review, be sure to respond to it, either by thanking the person for writing it, or addressing their complaint. If it is a positive review, don’t just leave it and hope that it reaches your potential customers. Promote it on your own website and social media, to show the world how much you are loved.

While there are definitely some areas that are out of your control, there are also ways for you to grapple with those unknowns. Identifying the things that you can control will help mitigate the effects of the things you cannot. This is also true of other areas of marketing– if you know that your social pages’ organic reach is decreasing, think about how you should divide your resources accordingly. Perhaps spend more time creating high-quality content that will drive engagement, and find ways to make it easier to maintain your organic feed. Uncontrollable factors do not have to hurt you. Take a moment to think about how they are out of your control and how you can respond accordingly, to get the most of every strategy and opportunity.