It’s A Buyers World Out There

Shopping for a CarConsumers are taking control online.  This is nothing new to most of us in auto retailing.  For more than a decade now the average consumer can glean extensive information, reviews, pricing, availability and ownership history on just about any product you can think imagine.  Since autos are a major purchase, auto retailing has gotten extensive scrutiny about our sales process.

We have also seen a boom in social media and product review sites. If you do any traveling at all you are probably familiar with www.TripAdvisor.com. Pick a destination or airline and you can view lots of brutally candid remarks about local hotels, restaurants and other travel related items.  Awhile back I attended the NIADA Convention in Orlando and went looking for inexpensive lodging on TripAdvisor.  I found lots of hotel rooms under $60 rooms but after reading reviews like, “better than sleeping at the bus station, but not by much . . .” I decided to move up a bit and avoid the bargain basement hotels.

The point is we can find information on any or everything including how a car dealer takes care of, or doesn’t take care of their customers.  Buyers World at DealershipsAfter ten plus years on the Internet most auto shopping consumers know that any dealer can meet or beat any legitimate price. So now auto shoppers look for ways to identify which dealers will give them a great buying experience, before, during and after the sale.  The new term you will be hearing about is SERM.  This stands for Search Engine Reputation Management.  Dealers need to have a strategy to not only give customers a place to voice their grievances but to post their praise for the dealership too.

The question is not whether a dealer likes or dislikes reviews of their  dealership, the question is now, what are they going to do to build, enhance and protect their reputation online. If you think this isn’t an issue go to Google.com and enter the term “Vincent Volkswagen” in the search box.  On page one you will see a negative site about this Rochester, NY dealership.

In talking to a few marketing experts in the field, they conservatively estimate those listings are costing the dealership 5 lost sales a month. At an average gross of $2000 per sale, the dealership is losing $120,000 a year in sales, not to mention lost service business too.  This is a good dealership, but they had an unhappy customer who felt their situation wasn’t handled properly and they voiced their frustration and complaint in a very visible fashion. It so damaged the dealership’s reputation that they sold out to a new owner.

You need to have a strategy that makes it easy all dealership customers to share their dealership experience with sales and service team members. Help the team build their personal reputations, and identify customers that have issues which need to be addressed.  Explore participating in ratings and review sites  and monitor what is being said about you online. Quickly address issues, fix the problems and highlight all the good things you do at your store.

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