As an automotive dealer, your reputation is your lifeline. And in the digital age, your reputation is displayed in black and white (and yellow stars) for everyone who searches for you or even generally searches for your services.

Too few reviews, too old reviews and fewer than four stars all disqualify you from ranking well with your most powerful business partner: Google. So, when you make a sale your work is not yet done. Let’s talk about your next move: securing the review.

First, you should ask every customer for a review. If unprompted, research shows that customers are more inclined to write negative reviews than positive ones, so when it comes to attempting to drown out those less becoming reviews, prompting every customer who makes a sale with your dealership is your best bet.

Think of this as “activating the voice of your happy customer.” Your happy customers may be the majority, but if their opinions are not on display in the right place, review sites, you’re missing opportunities to transform that goodwill into new business.

Even with prompting, not every customer will leave a review, so if you try to game the system by only prompting customers you’re positive had a great experience, you’ll waste time rating customers and miss out on reviews in the process. Not to mention, systematically filtering review requests to those with positive experience and away from those with negative experiences violates FTC guidelines and can result in the removal of all your review content without warning.

All of that hard work and money spent gone to waste.

After each sale, the salesperson should follow up with the customer to ask for a review within two to three days of making the sale. This timing is important. Your client has just completed a long, arduous car buying process — one that likely didn’t start at your dealership but has ended with a sale and hopefully a happy customer.

Don’t rush them to tout your dealership before they’ve at least made the celebratory drive home. However, ask before the new car smell wears off. You want to ensure your customer is leaving a review of their experience purchasing from your dealership — not reviewing the car itself.

The client’s experience with every interaction with your dealership — including when leaving a review — influences the review they might give you. Provide an easy and convenient review process.

Text clients with a direct link to leave a review on the most important sites like Google or Facebook. If you’re capturing a video review before they leave the dealership, try to record it while the vehicle is being detailed. Make it part of the experience so it’s not an added burden.

Once you’ve captured the review, your work still is not complete. A past customer is a potential customer and responding to reviews not only continues your relationship with that customer, but a timely and professional response will have benefits that reach far beyond that customer alone.

Prospective customers will react favorably to seeing dealer responses within your reviews — demonstrating you care for your customers and giving them a view into what they can expect from your dealership. Google also uses review responses as a key ranking factor, using responses to determine which dealerships are engaged, active and therefore good ones to recommend.

Responses also give you the opportunity to optimize your reviews, inputting keywords and even brand values.

Remember to respond to every review. Only responding to negative reviews have the unintended consequence of floating those negative reviews to the top of your page, as reviews with responses are often displayed first.

Great review content builds trust and drives customer acquisition. The pendulum of the car buying landscape is swinging with US consumers hunkering down on spending. Review content has become a go-to tool for due diligence of today’s savvy buyer. Automotive dealers need to manage their reputations to attract remaining car buyers who are looking for a trusted source to guide their next vehicle purchase.


Matt Murray is CEO of Widewail.