CARY, N.C. -

When a customer has a complaint, often he or she will go to the dealership first to report the problem, explained Harry Haber, a used-car manager at a California Volkswagen dealership.

Typically, it’s only after not getting a response, he says, that the consumer airs the complaint via the Web.

So if an issue arises, it’s best to nip it in the bud before it becomes an online — and potentially viral — situation, said Haber, who is the UCM at Capistrano Volkswagen in Orange County, Calif.

“If they have a problem, take care of it as soon as possible,” Haber noted. Or else, he added, “something might go viral.”

In other words, quash it before it escalates.

Haber was talking about how online reputation plays a big role throughout the entire dealership’s operations, but it also has an impact within the certified pre-owned segment, specifically.

Putting it succinctly, Larry Pryg of General Motors emphasized that dealers must take an active role in managing their online reputation. If they don’t, the chance of success goes down.

GM’s national manager of CPO operations recently shared with Auto Remarketing a few pointers about why having a solid online reputation is important in the certified realm, and how dealers can improve in this area.

“Everyone shops online, and most consumers seek feedback and dealer ratings as part of the dealer selection and shopping process. Simply stated, dealers who don’t manage their online reputation will not be completely successful,” Pryg stressed.

“Because we are heavily invested in online marketing, it’s important we maximize that investment. Therefore, GM Certified Pre-Owned partners work with and to conduct nationwide CPO Dealer Workshops that dedicate time to advanced online marketing strategies including Dealership Reputation Management best practices,” he continued. “Increasing customer enthusiasm is not just a new car-and service department goal; it must be embraced by the entire dealership. GM Certified Pre-Owned must lead in consumer enthusiasm.”

Say a dealer does have a negative review or an unfavorable post about their used-car or CPO business.

Should that happen, Pryg emphasizes the need to respond. And this is particularly vital when a consumer is upset about something.

“You really must respond to everything—but especially negative reviews. It’s a key for transparency, and you have to be respectful of customers’ opinions,” Pryg emphasized. “It’s okay if you can’t completely resolve the issue; however, you must try because customers are looking for genuine effort.”

Haber — again, speaking of the overall operations of dealership — stressed that while there are some gray areas in extreme matters, dealers shouldn’t restrict openness or try to censor something just because it’s negative.

However, if a dealer’s reputation for used/CPO isn’t where he or she would like it to be, there are measures that can be taken, while being transparent throughout the process, said Pryg.

“First, it’s critical that a manager is monitoring all avenues of feedback that consumers have online. Many dealers simply don’t check online enough, so they don’t know when consumers have issues,” Pryg shared. “Dealers must place a high priority on reputation management, which includes measurement and compensation strategy.

“Secondly, consumer issues must be acted on and resolved  quickly—all in a transparent manner,” he added.

For dealer advice on this issue — as well as info on other digital trends tools, and strategies for dealers — see the Sept. 1–14 print issue of Auto Remarketing.

In our special Digital Trends, Tools & Strategies for Smart Dealers section of this issue, Auto Remarketing takes a look into some of the key trends within the digital automotive environment. This section also touts features that tackle the latest mobile device patterns in the wholesale and retail market, a guide for online reputation managment in the pre-owned market, more insight into vAuto’s recent high-tech purchase and more.