The Quick Guide to Auto Dealer Reputation Management


Why Do I Need Auto Dealer Reputation Management?

It's not a secret that car dealerships are in a competitive industry, and the competition is only increasing. Non-dealer options for buying online, skyrocketing marketing costs, and consumers choosing to keep their cars longer all combine to make for a much tougher market for any auto dealership to draw attention.

As a result, you need to have the best word-of-mouth and reputation possible in order to keep customers coming back and cars heading off the lot. But getting and keeping a good car dealer reputation can be more difficult than you might think.


How Does An Auto Dealer Get A Bad Reputation?

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One of the biggest problems most auto dealers face is the "reputation deficit" associated with their profession. We've all seen the stereotype of the sleazy salesman with his tacky blazer and obvious toupee, and that sets a certain expectation in the minds of people. It doesn't help that misbehavior by car salespeople is spotted and spread widely on the Internet, with the failures of one person painting the whole industry with an unfair brush.

And, simply put, you just can't please everyone. Every car salesman, no matter how forthright and honest, has dealt with a customer convinced his 20-year-old trade-in is worth vastly more than its Blue Book value, or had a customer who just decided that, no matter how hard you worked for them, that you were going to rip them off. A handful of these people accusing you of shady practices online is often enough to seriously taint a dealership's chances.


What's Involved In Car Dealer Image Management?

There are generally three steps to managing your reputation as an auto dealer: determining what your business' reputation currently is; addressing attempts to give your business a negative reputation; and maintaining that reputation over time. All three, however, have problems that are unique to the auto industry.


Sorting The Dealership From The Manufacturer

Beginning your car dealer image management strategy is as simple as plugging its name into search engines and review sites and seeing what people have to say. It's always worth reading a review, good or bad, because good reviews tell you what you're doing right and bad reviews tell you what you need to address. A large amount of reviews will also let you spot patterns to encourage or clamp down on.

That said, a consistent problem many car dealerships run into is that for most consumers, the dealership and the manufacturer are indistinguishable, or the same entity. Look no further than the confusion around something as simple as factory-to-dealer incentives. And to some degree, that's true: Auto dealerships can't exactly just decide to just ship back all the Fords in their inventory and become a Dodge dealership on a dime. So, to some degree, your reputation will be tied to the brand of vehicle you sell, and if that reputation isn't the best, there's little you can do.

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That said, there are things you can do to differentiate yourself, especially online. Address misconceptions where you can, and stay on top of recall alerts, especially for models with a problematic reputation. This will go a long way towards preventing bad reviews.


Managing Your Car Dealership's Online Reputation By Replying To Bad Reviews

Americans love cars, but they rarely understand how cars are sold. Many think that there's little difference between the pick-up truck they buy and the cans of beans on the shelves across the street. So they won't understand, for example, that while the Blue Book may tell them their trade-in is worth a certain amount, you can't accept it because you've already got five of them on the lot that aren't selling.

Often, bad reviews are built around these misconceptions, and the best thing you can do is comment on a review and clarify what's going on behind the scenes. For example, if a customer complains that you didn't give them "full value" for their trade-in, you can walk them through your process, as much as you can, and apologize for not being able to offer them the deal they wanted. Replying to bad reviews is a good tactic not least because, by being polite and using proper grammar, you can come off like the bigger person, and demonstrate that you care what customers think even after they've driven off the lot.

In some cases, however, a review is simply false, abusive, or perhaps may even actively threaten the health and safety of one of your employees. In that situation, you should contact the website, not the critic, and discuss the possibility of removing it completely. You and your employees shouldn't have to tolerate threats.

Finally, you can simply use auto dealer image management to bury bad reviews with good ones. Post links from your review pages to your dealership's website and use them in email signatures. Encourage happy customers to consider weighing in with their experiences. The more you can demonstrate a negative experience is not the norm, the better.


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Monitoring Your Dealership's Online Reputation

Finally, you'll need to keep an eye on your dealership's overall reputation online once you've done your best to fix it. It's best to use software for this purpose; while search engines offer alerts, they're only tied to specific terms and may not offer you the full picture.

If you need help with your car dealer reputation management, ReputationDefender can ensure you have the best possible reputation. We'll help you find negative reviews, and build tools to counteract them. Your dealership shouldn't be defined by bad reviews; contact ReputationDefender today.

Photo credits: emilio laborador, Ben McLeod, Curtis Chronn

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