For well over a decade, I have worked with, led and trained some of the best sales professionals in the world. They all, without exception, share a single common trait.
Somehow they know more about their customers’ business and what their customers are trying to accomplish than customers do. The reason for this is simple: Most successful salespeople are such students of their customers that they are able to take their experience with one and build on it with the next.
At the same time, I’ve seen some successful dealers teach these principles on the floor while ignoring them when it comes to modern technology tools. Today, we’ll speak specifically about the role of social media and reputation management when it comes to your certified pre-owned sales and your new- and used-car sales.
I recently had a bad experience with a local dealership in their service department. This is a dealer that I have been working with for almost 15 years, one where I have purchased several vehicles and have been a regular user of their service department for the past 10 years.
The issue was that they recently began charging a diagnostic fee that is not absorbed into the job when you agree to have them do the work. Their door rate is already the highest in town, and I’ve never questioned this part until there was an un-communicated additional charge. I questioned the charge and poor communication with the service writer, who stood firm.
The service director was out and the GM unavailable, so I paid and went away unhappy.
Bothered all weekend by this experience, I wrote an email to the GM on Monday morning. He didn’t respond. Two days later, I went onto their Facebook page and wrote a negative review.
Still no one at the dealership responded. I wrote another negative review on another social media site; still no response.
I then went to a major third-party site and wrote another negative review. Then sent a note to the zone manager. That finally got their attention and a call back from the GM; now five days later!
Things were resolved fairly and to my satisfaction. An hour later, the third negative review I posted was emailed to the Internet manager and the GM called me about changing the review (which I agreed to do).
The point? Simple. Just as you are putting your best foot forward when a customer walks onto your showroom floor, you and your dealership must also manage your brand and reputation on social media. When it comes to CPO, consumers are buying from you because they trust that you are doing the extra work in inspecting the vehicle, reconditioning it to make it like new and taking the extra step to put an extended warranty.
This trust can be shattered with the reading of a negative review about any part of your dealership on social media.
While I was waiting days for a call back from the general manager, I began reading reviews on DealerRater, Facebook, Google Reviews, Edmunds, Consumer Reports, Yelp and even the Better Business Bureau on this dealer and then others around the country, and it astounded me on how many negative reviews there were without responses or offsetting positive reviews!
To millennials: reputation matters! To Gen Xers: reputation matters! And to baby boomers: reputation matters! Or should I just say: to buyers, reputation matters!
Millennials are the first generation to grow up in the digital age. Gen Xers learned about touchscreens as tweens; even the oldest millennials were surfing the Internet after school; and later, while still in school. This is their home. They’ve posted their share of embarrassing content, of course, but this only makes the consequences of online reputation more real to them. When you’ve witnessed firsthand the damage that an ill-advised tweet or regrettable photo can do, the need for managing online reputation is obvious.
A more broad study conducted by Google Consumer Surveys, shows that online reviews impact 67.7 percent of respondents' purchasing decisions. More than half of the respondents (54.7 percent) admitted that online reviews are fairly, very or absolutely an important part of their decision-making process.
The research also uncovered that businesses risk losing almost one-fourth of customers when just one negative article is found by users considering buying their product. If three negative articles pop up in a search query, the potential for lost customers increases to 59.2 percent. Have four or more negative articles about your dealership appearing in Google search results? You’re likely to lose 70 percent of potential customers.
Online reviews have a significant influence on the decision-making process of consumers. They can destroy trust in your customer.
For the past year, I’ve been showing you and telling you that today’s consumers buy CPO for three reasons: trust, safety and security.
I’ve focused on the negatives in this article thus far, since negative reviews are being posted daily about dealers all over the country and adversely impacting trust, safety and security of the buying decision.
At the same time, your brand reputation can be managed and used as a selling tool to draw more customers into your showroom and to close more sales.
How? Here are four easy habits. They will take time and will work, when worked.
- Monitor and analyze your dealership’s reviews on popular review sites like Google+, Dealer Rater, your own Facebook page and Twitter. Other sites, like Yelp, Cars.com or Edmunds, should also be checked often, as they can quickly climb Google search results. Don’t attempt to artificially alter the results, but instead look for best practices on how to improve Yelp reviews or other review sites and implement them. The goal is to naturally improve the general buzz around your business.
- If negative articles exist, there are solutions for improvement. Work with your SEM/SEO provider and create positive press and reviews about the dealership through SEO and online reputation management efforts. By gaining control of the search results for your company or product, you will be in control of the main message that individuals see when looking for more information about your dealership.
That's done by working to ensure prospects and customers enjoy a satisfying experience when interacting with your brand (product AND people), whether online or offline.
- Respond quickly to any negative review by being transparent and actively listening to what the customer’s complaints are — whether they are right or wrong — and then responding to their needs.
- Ask happy customers in sales and service to write a positive review from their device before leaving the dealership. Make it easy for them to want to brag about the great decision they made in buying from you!
Eric Hippen, general manager of Kemna Auto of Fort Dodge told me that he has instituted a policy that salespeople are to ask every customer to write a review as they are taking delivery. The results? They hold a FIVE-star rating on Google Reviews and Dylan, a salesperson at the dealership, has customers walking in regularly and asking for him by name because of the reviews they read about him and the dealership.
Eric also told me that reputation management is so important to their sales, that he personally oversees this area of the business.
The myth about managing high producing sales talent is that they don’t need management. Superstar salespeople want someone to watch them in action. As their boss, it can be one of the best days you’ll ever spend in the field. Similarly, millennials want someone to watch them too; those are their social media followers who read their reviews. Give them every reason to make it their best day to brag about you!
Rob Christman is a 15-year veteran of the auto industry and has worked for top brands such as Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book in both corporate product development and field sales positions. Rob has presented at many industry conferences, most recently at the 2016 Used Car Week's CPO Forum.