You might think that consumer reviews are a good thing. After all, most consumers are more likely to trust the opinion and experience of satisfied customers over a sales pitch with obvious ulterior motives. If your company is on the up and up and you truly prioritize stellar products and customer service, you have nothing to worry about, right?
Unfortunately, we no longer live in a world where word of mouth suffices to bring in new customers. Nowadays anyone can post anything they like online under the guise of relative anonymity and toss a virtual bomb on your business. Even if you do everything right, disgruntled customers and even unscrupulous competitors posting negative Yelp and Google reviews for car dealerships could undermine your livelihood.
Are review sites and car dealerships incompatible? What can you do if you’ve received unfair reviews that are dragging your ratings down and deterring prospective customers?
The Mixed Blessing of Yelp and Google Reviews for Car Dealerships
There’s no denying that online consumer reviews can be useful. When satisfied customers go out of their way to virtually applaud your service, commend your staff, and recommend your brand to other shoppers, you’re going to gain a competitive edge and see an influx of customers that have a positive opinion of your business before they ever walk in the door. You can’t buy this kind of publicity and goodwill.
Naturally, this is also good for customers, who want to support the best businesses within their community. The problem for dealers is customers that leave unfair negative reviews with low ratings, dragging down the average and doing potentially irreparable harm in the process.
Take for example a dealer that caters to high-end clientele with a showroom full of exotic cars. While the dealership is perfectly capable of laying hands on all kinds of hard-to-find vehicles, they can’t possibly keep every exotic car in stock on the off-chance someone might wander in seeking a test drive.
When a customer can’t immediately lay hands on a rare custom car, he may write a scathing review with a one-star rating to show his displeasure. This is hardly fair to the business, and yet, there is little recourse to change Yelp and Google reviews for car dealerships, whether they’re deserved or not.
In some cases, businesses are simply plagued by trolls looking to have some fun, for no reason the business can discern. Or competitors might hire people to post fraudulent negative reviews. Whatever the case, these reviews can influence consumers who read them and impact businesses that receive them.
The Conundrum of Review Sites and Car Dealerships
While dealers can certainly lobby to have unfair ratings and reviews removed, there’s very little hope that review sites will comply. Not only do they want to provide a fair forum for users to express themselves, but they simply don’t have the resources to manage the flood of such requests. What, then, can dealerships do to get a fair shake?
Should you lobby to have your listing removed as a way to even the playing field? This is hardly a wise solution since you definitely want to be found by consumers, and review sites are among the best ways to be found organically. Can you sue Yelp, Google, or related review sites for fair treatment? You’re bound to lose a lot of time and money in the process.
What’s the solution? The best thing you can do is remain aware and active. Review sites and car dealerships are not in a partnership, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the forum to your advantage by communicating, both directly and indirectly, with customers. You may not be able to remove one-star reviews, but you can reach out to the users who post them and try to address their concerns (valid or not).
Even if you’re unable to turn their negative interaction into a positive one, you still have an opportunity to speak to readers. Most consumers are pretty savvy these days when it comes to reviews. They understand that not every customer is going to be satisfied – some people just can’t be pleased. It’s actually more suspicious if a company has no negative reviews.
So, when you do get an undeserved one-star rating, simply reply to the complaint in a courteous and helpful manner so prospective customers viewing the online interaction have the opportunity to make up their own minds about who is unreasonable and who is trustworthy.
Don’t forget, you can also use online platforms like DealerStrip to your advantage, bypassing review sites and interacting directly with customers and other dealers interested in buying, selling, and trading automobiles.