If you’re like most shoppers, you probably read a lot of customer reviews before choosing a product or store. And when we say a lot, we’re not exaggerating- one study found that 85% of customers read up to 10 reviews before they feel they can trust a business.
Naturally, this is also true for dealerships. We know people typically visit only one or two dealerships today, preferring to do most of their research online, which means your website needs to be in tip-top shape. It also means you need to get some consumer reviews out there. We talk a lot about content for dealership website these days, and review content is especially helpful – what better way to convince people to choose you than with the reviews of satisfied customers? Consider the following:
- In one study by Podium, 93% of respondents said reviews influence their purchase decisions; 82% said reviews have influenced them to make a purchase
- Digital Air Strike found that 50% of car buyers said reviews were the most important factor in selecting a dealership to visit and buy from
- Cars.com discovered that 48% of people completely avoid buying from businesses with no accessible consumer reviews at all
- People love to talk to their friends and get personal advice, but 88% of people trust reviews by strangers as much as reviews by friends
We hope that by now you are convinced: reviews are really important for moving customers from online browsers to in-store buyers. With that in mind, let’s get into some of the key points of getting great reviews that help your customers, bring you more business, and help you improve.
Customer reviews: the essentials
Let’s just get this out of the way: it can be hard to get people to write reviews. That’s probably why the least informative reviews are often the ones with the most general questions. You probably know this from your own experiences: requests for open-ended feedback take a lot of time and energy to think about and write, so unless you have something you are dying to say, you will most likely ignore them, or write something extremely brief. On the other hand, clear options, categories and rating options are less demanding, and therefore will likely get a better response. So, make sure to identify a few categories for people to rate with stars or multiple choice options, including:
- Your cars, of course. Anyone who purchased should have the opportunity to rate their vehicle and let other customers know if they’re looking at a good fit.
- The in-store experience. You can break this down into categories like comfort of waiting area, promptness of service, general atmosphere. Find out what it’s like to be a visitor in your showroom.
- The financing process. This is the part that people dread, so if your dealership is doing a great job (and we know it is), have your customers rate it and provide feedback.
- Customer service. Request feedback on interactions with your staff– friendliness, helpfulness, knowledge– including reviews of specific salespeople.
- Service reviews. Don’t ignore service! 94% of people looking for service find these reviews helpful, so make sure your service customers have the opportunity to provide feedback as well.
- The online experience. We have yet to see a dealership website that includes reviews of the digital experience itself. And yet, this is often the place where people decide whether or not to move forward with your dealership. Getting feedback on your website is so important that we’ve devoted a whole separate section of this blog to it, so read on! And if your dealership already does this, let us know, and kudos to you!
Another way to overcome the difficulty of getting reviews is to make the process as smooth as possible, with an app that customers can fill out from your store, or a link you send in a follow-up email that’s fully mobile-optimized.
The easier it is for your customers to provide reviews, the more likely you are to get them. And having a greater number of reviews is an obvious benefit: as we mentioned earlier, customers like it, and it also allows you to keep your reviews more current. How many times have you searched for reviews of a product only to find the most recent one was written in 2011? This does not inspire confidence– where are all of the current customers? Are they happy? Do they even exist? Having lots of reviews, and up-to-date ones, shows your dealership’s vibrancy and success.
Where should your reviews be?
Your reviews should be anywhere your customers are looking, so definitely make it easy for your customers to review your dealership on popular sites such as dealerrater.com, Yelp, Facebook, Google, and third-party sites. However, do not forget to put reviews on your own website, and display them prominently. If possible, allow your customers to rate you directly on your site. And wherever possible, include photos and videos for extra engagement and emotional connection.
Reviews on your dealership website are important for a few reasons:
- Your dealership website should be a one-stop shop for your users. It should be a resource for everything a car shopper could need over the course of their buying process– and they definitely need reviews.
- It establishes your expertise, trustworthiness, and quality: anyone who visits your site can see the confidence that your customers have placed in you.
- If reviews are not on your site, and customers have to look for them elsewhere, they may not come back. Anytime your users leave your site, the chance of their getting distracted and forgetting about you is unfortunately high. This is especially true for early-stage shoppers who are researching many aspects of car shopping, often simultaneously and through different sources.
Above all, putting your reviews on your site brings online shoppers the content they want to see. That’s great customer service.
What about negative reviews of my dealership?
Ah, the negative review. It’s going to happen, even to the best of us. It may seem catastrophic, but a negative review doesn’t have to be a bad thing for your dealership, overall. For one thing, having a few negative reviews demonstrates honesty– if they were all good, people would suspect that the bad ones are just not there. But more importantly, negative reviews are a great opportunity, both for improvement and to show your customers you are interested in improvement. If you get a negative review, whether on your website, Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else, respond to it, publicly if possible. It is possible to transform the most vociferous detractors into loyal customers simply by listening to feedback and making a good-faith effort to remedy whatever problems are raised. Responding to negative feedback shows a true investment in your customers’ experience.
Consumer reviews: don’t forget about the digital
We mentioned earlier that reviews of your dealership’s digital experience are highly neglected, but extremely important. Considering how much of the research process is done online, you need to know how your customers experience your website. So how do you find out? Ask them, of course.
Ask your customers: did your website give them what they wanted? Did they choose your dealership because of your website? Did they choose your dealership in spite of your website? This is crucial information.
By the time a customer walks through your showroom doors, and certainly by the time they have made a purchase, it might seem like this information is no longer relevant– or it might seem obvious that the digital experience was good, or at least good enough to bring customers into the showroom. Do not assume this is true. Get the data you need to make the improvements your website needs.
So what data should you gather? Here are some suggestions:
7 crucial pieces of data for your consumer digital reviews
- Content. Whether they are getting ready to buy or still figuring out how car tech has changed in the 10 years since their last car purchase, your customers are looking for information on your website. So one of the most important pieces of data to gather is whether they were able to actually find what they were looking for. Specifically, you can ask:
- Were VDPs up to date and sufficiently informative?
- Did we have the tools you needed?
- Was our website helpful for you in choosing your next vehicle?
- Did you find the information you came for?
- Did you find everything you were looking for regarding service and maintenance?
- Was content enjoyable?
- Accessibility. You could have the world’s greatest content, but if your website browsers can’t find it, it won’t be helpful. Ask your users:
- Was it easy to navigate the site?
- Were navigation bars clear and intuitive?
- Design. A lot of websites today unfortunately take the pro-bombardment approach: cram as much as possible into the home page and throw as many lead capture tools on there as humanly possible, in a desperate attempt to gain visitors’ attention. The thing is, your users get overwhelmed by that just like you would. So as you evaluate and reevaluate your website design, make sure to get your customers’ feedback:
- Was the website easy on the eyes or was it headache-inducing?
- Did popups and offers appear at good times, or did they all grab for attention at once?
- Was the design intuitive and up-to-date, or did it look like it was ripped out of a magazine ad section, then scanned and uploaded?
- Personalization. This is a big one, with so many customers today expecting an online shopping experience tailored to their individual interests. Ask your users:
- Were popups and overlays relevant to your interests?
- If you visited the site multiple times, did you see the same content and offers every time, or did it vary to reflect my stage in the buying process?
- Tools. Payment, financing, and trade-in tools and calculators are perennial favorites for digital dealership browsers, so the best way to assess the quality of yours is to ask the people who use them: are the tools on our website helpful? Are they intuitive? Are they overly complicated? Find out so you can make any changes if necessary.
- Follow-up. Of course the goal is to move customers from the website to the store, so find out how helpful your processes were in making that happen:
- Did the dealership respond to your lead submission or request for information? How long did it take to respond?
- Did responses show familiarity with the information submitted or questions already asked, or did the representative ask questions you had already answered? Were they helpful and courteous?
- Overall digital experience. In general, how helpful was your website?
- Was there something in particular that led this customer to the decision to visit your dealership?
- Are they likely to return for service and maintenance needs?
This might seem like a lot of questions, and it is. So choose a few areas that are important to your dealership right now and focus on getting substantial feedback on those categories. In a few months, try asking about something else. The goal is to make sure you know if your website is accomplishing what it’s supposed to: getting you more customers and providing crucial resources to encourage people to come back to you every time, with everything they need.
What are some of your favorite tricks for customer reviews? Tweet at us @autoleadstar
Call us for a free consultation and start getting more leads from your dealership website! 216-242-1320